Burma Air Bagan emergency landing kills two at Heho

Media caption,
The BBC's Jonathan Head says the plane was flying a popular route

At least two people have been killed and another 11 injured after a plane was forced to make an emergency landing in Burma, officials say.

The Air Bagan plane was carrying more than 60 passengers. Two Britons are believed to be among those hurt.

It was on its way from the city of Rangoon to Heho airport in Shan state when it crash-landed about 3km (two miles) from the runway.

Reports say a fire in one of the engines may have caused the accident.

Burmese government officials have confirmed a passenger was found dead inside the plane.

A motorcyclist near Heho airport was also killed when the Fokker jet made its emergency landing in thick fog in a rice field.

The UK Foreign Office said it was working with Burmese authorities to establish whether two of the foreigners wounded in the crash were British.

"Our acting consul is en route to Heho Airport and the charge d'affaires has been deployed to Rangoon airport as we understand that some passengers involved in the incident are being flown there," a UK Foreign Office spokesman said.

Swiss survivor Leandre Guillod, 28, told the BBC from a hospital in Rangoon that the crash happened just before the plane landed as it was flying through some clouds.

"Suddenly we just hit the ground and then it was all red and orange," he said.

Mr Guillod said a stewardess subsequently managed to open the emergency exit.

"I was pretty much at the back... there was an opening above the wing, there was lots of fire so me and my girlfriend just jumped because we thought it was better to get out as soon as possible before it might explode."

Media caption,
Survivor: 'We thought the plane might explode'

Two pilots were also among the injured, who are reported to have been taken to Sao San Tun Hospital in Shan's capital, Taunggyi.

"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," Air Bagan spokesman Ye Min Oo said in a statement.

Sources told AFP news agency a fire had started in one of the engines. The plane broke in half when it crashed, eyewitnesses said.

Heho is the gateway to the popular tourist destination of Inle Lake in Shan state.

Air Bagan is one of handful of privately owned carriers flying domestic routes in Burma. The airline operated two Fokker-100 jets, which are no longer being manufactured.

Diplomats have routinely expressed concern about the safety of Burma's domestic airlines, which have been unable to modernise their fleets because of sanctions, and whose safety checks are not published, the BBC's south-east Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports.

The rapidly increasing number of foreigners visiting Burma is putting a strain on those airlines, which offer the only way of getting around such a large country with very poor roads and railways, he says.