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Iran plane crash black box found

Investigators have found the black box from a passenger jet which crashed while trying to make an emergency landing in a snowstorm in north-western Iran, killing at least 77 people.

The pilots of the Boeing-727, operated by Iran's national airline and carrying 104 passengers and crew, reported a technical failure to the control tower before trying to make the landing on Sunday, state-run TV reported.

The IranAir aircraft broke into several pieces, but Mahmoud Mozaffar, head of the rescue department of Iran's Red Crescent Society, said there was no explosion or fire.

Footage on state TV showed the plane's crumpled fuselage lying in a field, torn apart in several places, under whirling snow in the darkness as rescue workers and local farmers searched for survivors in the hours after the crash.

Heavy snow hampered rescue efforts, the semi-official Fars news agency cited the head of the state emergency centre as saying. That report also mentioned fog in the area.

State TV said the aircraft disappeared from radar and went down in farmland after making a second attempt to land at the airport in the north-western city of Orumiyeh. The nature of the technical failure was not clear.

Iran's transport minister Hamid Behbahani said 77 people died and 27 were injured, some critically. He said the flight was carrying 104 passengers and crew, correcting earlier reports of 105 on board. He said the plane's flight data recorder, known as the black box, had been recovered "and is now being studied by a committee probing the crash".

Some of the passengers were able to walk away from the landing, a spokesman for the civil aviation authority said. There were conflicting accounts on whether all 104 on board were accounted for, with some TV reports saying all were found and others saying two remained missing. The state news agency IRNA said two children were among the dead.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a message of condolence to the families of the victims and ordered a quick investigation into the cause of the crash.

The aircraft was heading from Tehran to Orumiyeh, capital of West Azerbaijan province, a distance of about 460 miles.

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