Two dead, 11 hurt in plane crash

A Myanmar passenger jet packed with foreign tourists crash-landed and burst into flames Tuesday in a field in eastern Shan state, killing at least two people and injuring 11 others, officials said.

Black smoke was seen billowing from the charred wreckage of the Air Bagan aircraft, which came down near Heho airport -- the gateway to the popular tourist destination of Inle Lake.

Long isolated from the world under decades of junta rule, Myanmar has seen an influx of tourists and business travellers in recent months following a raft of political reforms.

Fifty-one foreigners were among the 63 passengers on board the Christmas Day flight from Yangon via Mandalay, according to the information ministry.

The ageing Fokker-100 jet crashed while attempting to land in heavy fog, breaking its tail and catching fire, according to the ministry.

Air Bagan said a Burmese tour guide on board the plane was killed. Earlier the information ministry said an 11-year-old had died but the airline said it was not aware of any child fatality.

A motorcyclist on the ground also perished.

Two Americans, two Britons and one Korean man were among those taken to hospital in nearby Taunggyi, according to Air Bagan, which described the incident as an "emergency landing".

Two French nationals were also slightly injured, according to a French embassy official in Yangon.

The information ministry said on its website that the plane appeared to have landed in a field next to the runway due to the bad weather.

"Because of the emergency landing near the airport, the plane broke up in the middle," a government official told AFP, adding that passengers were evacuated.

The two pilots were among those taken to hospital, according to Air Bagan spokesman Ye Min Oo.

"The cause of the accident is not clear yet. Only the pilots will know the cause, but we can't contact them yet as they have been sent to hospital," he said.

Air Bagan is one of several domestic carriers seeking to profit from a tourist boom in Myanmar as it emerges from decades of military rule.

It is owned by tycoon Tay Za, who is known for his close links to the former junta and has been blacklisted by the US Treasury which once described him as "a notorious regime henchman and arms dealer".

The Fokker 100, which is no longer manufactured, was one of two operated by the airline along with four ATR turboprop aircraft, according to the company's website.

A surge in demand for air travel as Myanmar opens up has stretched the impoverished country's aviation infrastructure, in particular in remote airports.

Yangon International Airport, the country's main terminal, is set to exceed its limit of 2.7 million passengers this year and the Department of Civil Aviation warned in July it needed urgent upgrading.

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