(AFX) - At least 137 people died Sunday when a Russian passenger plane veered off a runway, slammed into a concrete wall and burst into flames while landing in the Siberian city of Irkutsk, officials said.
"Sixty-three people survived the crash... There were 200 people on board," a spokesman for the Irkutsk section of the emergency situations ministry said.
Eleven people walked away from the crash site and 52 others were hospitalised, the spokesman said, adding that 120 bodies have been recovered from the fuselage so far.
The incident occurred when the Airbus A310 careered off the tarmac in slippery conditions and ploughed into a complex of garages used by local residents, officials said.
"It was terrifying. People were shouting. People were on fire. I saw people on fire. Then I jumped out," said Margarita Svetlova, a young survivor interviewed on Russia's Channel One.
A group of children on their way to a holiday in the scenic Lake Baikal region and 12 foreign nationals were on board the S7 Airlines plane, Russian news agencies said.
The foreigners were two Azerbaijani, two Belarussian, three Chinese, three German and two Polish nationals, the airline said in a written statement cited in the news reports.
The incident occurred at 8.00 am (2300 GMT Saturday) as the flight from Moscow's Domodedovo airport was landing in the city in central Siberia.
Putin has declared Monday a national day of mourning, calling for flags to be flown at half-mast and for television channels to cancel entertainment shows, the Kremlin said in a written statement.
The Russian president has ordered a government enquiry to be set up, Transport Minister Igor Levitin said in broadcast comments before leaving Moscow to join the investigation.
No definite reason for the crash has yet been put forward, but officials said that the black box flight recorders have been found and sent to Moscow for examination.
"There was a technical fault with the plane," a spokesman for S7 Airlines said at a news conference broadcast on Russian television.
RIA-Novosti news agency cited an investigator as saying that a failure in the hydraulic brakes system of a Russian passenger plane caused the jet to crash while landing at Irkutsk in Siberia.
"The information we have shows that after landing, when the plane put on the thrust reverser, there was a failure in the braking system that led other mechanisms in the system to break down," a member of the enquiry set up to look into the causes of the crash said.
"This meant the plane was basically out of control after landing," the unnamed official continued.
The official said the reason for the crash would be established definitively once the black box flight recorders had been examined and tests were carried out on the remnants of the plane.
S7 Airlines, formerly known as Sibir, is Russia's second biggest airline after Aeroflot.
Airbus said in a statement that a team of specialists had been dispatched to Russia and that the company would provide "full technical assistance to the authorities."
The company said the plane was built in 1987 and had carried out more than 10,000 flights.
Prosecutors announced they had opened a criminal enquiry into the crash.
Among those on board the plane was the head of the FSB security service for the Irkutsk region, General Sergei Koryakov, officials said.
The landing at Irkutsk airport is believed to be one of the most difficult in Russia because the runway is unusually short due to surrounding mountains.
In a previous major accident at Irkutsk airport in 2001, all 145 people aboard a Tu-154 jet were killed as the plane was coming in for landing.