The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Burning jet ploughs into houses, four die

Chandigarh, April 4: Five persons were killed and a child was trapped when an Indian Air Force fighter jet crashed today into two houses in a Punjab village.

The pilot bailed out safely from the MiG-23 fighter, which was on a routine training mission when it hit five houses at Mullanpur Dakha, less than 10 km from Ludhiana, just missing a nearby school.

“Since it had just taken off, its fuel tank was full. The aircraft exploded immediately on impact, reducing the houses to rubble. Later the fire spread to another house. All three houses have been damaged,” Ludhiana range DIG Mohammed Mustafa said. The wreckage is spread over half-a-dozen houses. It took the fire brigade over four hours to control the flames.

Two of the dead have been identified as Raju and his wife Paramjit. The other bodies are charred beyond recognition. Four persons are in hospital with serious injuries.

Tehal Singh, a resident, said he heard a loud explosion around 10.15 am. “The explosion was so loud that I could not hear anything for 15 minutes. The building caught fire. I saw some small parts of the aircraft flying over my house,” he said.

Another eyewitness, Baldev Kumar, who along with Tehal was among the first few to reach the spot, alleged that police officials slapped him and some others when they were trying to rescue people by breaking a wall. “The fire brigade and the police took over 30 minutes to arrive. We did what we could, but the heat was searing,” he added. “For minutes, we heard cries from inside the giant fireball,” he mumbled, in tears.

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