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Plane crashes in New York

Firefighters battle to douse the blaze in residential areas where the plane came down Keystone

An American Airlines plane has crashed in New York's Borough of Queens with 246 passengers and nine crew on board. The plane ploughed into a residential area, setting several buildings on fire.

The plane crashed shortly after take off from John F Kennedy International Airport at about 0915 local time, bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Officials sealed off all bridges and tunnels into the city, following the crash, and closed New York’s three airports.

“The airports have been closed, and as a precaution we [closed] the bridges and tunnels,” said New York’s mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, who was at the scene.
He added that the city was “on a high state of alert”.

There was no immediate indication of the cause of the crash, which comes two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks destroyed the city’s World Trade Center.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed that the plane was American Airlines Flight 587, an Airbus A-300.

The White House said it had received no credible threats which coincided with the crash.

State of alert

As further precautionary measures the Empire State Building was closed, and the United Nations was sealed off. Ministers from 189 states are gathered at the UN headquarters for the general assembly.

The FBI said there was no indication that the crash was a terrorist attack, or that it was related to the September 11 attacks in New York, in which hijacked commercial airliners were crashed into the World Trade Center, killing more than 4,500 people.

“Right now, we don’t believe it is [terrorist related] because we don’t have any information indicating that it is,” Federal Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Tracy Ballinger said.

Authorities said the takeoff of Flight 587 had been delayed, although no explanation was given.

Police blocked roads near the crash site, about eight kilometres from JFK Airport. Giuliani said the wreckage was actually spread over two crash sites. One engine crashed separately from the rest of the plane.

Buildings caught fire

At least four buildings were reported on fire after the crash along a shopping district of the popular Rockaway section of Queens, which is connected to Manhattan by bridges.

Electricity was reported to be cut to some homes in the area.

Nearly 200 firefighters and more than 40 rescue vehicles converged on the scene, and rescue helicopters flew in the skies overhead. Two schools in the area were converted to emergency medical centres. Both had been closed for the Veterans Day holiday, as were many public buildings across the country.

Plumes of smoke billowed from the crash site. At least one witness reported hearing an explosion.

Airlines diverted

Several airlines diverted flights heading for New York. Swissair cancelled one flight, and said that unless JFK airport was open by 2000 Central European Time, two other flights would have to be diverted either to Boston or Montreal, Canada.

by Denise Kalette

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