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76 confirmed dead in Colombian plane crash (Roundup)

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Bogota, Nov 29 (IANS) At least 76 people were confirmed dead after a plane carrying 81 persons crashed near Medellin in Colombia, the media reported on Tuesday.

The passengers included players from Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense. The plane crashed near Rionegro area, CNN quoted Colombia's civil aviation department as saying.

The plane took off from Bolivia, and declared an emergency between the municipal areas of La Ceja and La Union, said a statement from Colombian aviation officials.

The civil aviation agency initially announced that six passengers -- three players, two crew members, and one journalist -- survived the crash.

One of the survivors died on the way to the hospital, officials said.

Police Director General Jose Acevedo Ossa said the search operation was suspended on Tuesday because there were no more survivors at the site, RT news reported.

Chapecoense players Alan Luciano Ruschel and Jackson Ragnar Follmann survived.

Ruschel was in shock but was conscious and speaking, and asked to keep his wedding ring and speak to his family.

Authorities did not immediately release the names of the other survivors.

Officials did not specify what happened to the plane, but the reports said the aircraft ran out of fuel before it crashed.

Images of the incident showed damaged parts of the plane, which broke into two.

"The important thing here, seeing that there might be survivors, it's saving lives. That's first and foremost," Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez said.

"We're here supporting them on this very, very sad story. They have our solidarity, so do their families, their friends, their countries," he added.

A statement from nearby Jose Maria Cordova airport said the accident site can only be accessed by land because of weather conditions.

The Colombian Air Force had to abort a mission to the accident site due to inclement weather, according to officials.

Chapecoense was set to play the Colombian club team Atletico Nacional in the first leg of the South American Cup Ffnals on Wednesday.

The team, which is ninth in Brazil's Serie A league, has surprised many with its performance in the tournament this year.

The team said in a post on its Facebook page that it was waiting for an official announcement from Colombian aviation authorities before issuing its own statement about the crash.

The lesser-known club was founded in 1973 and has steadily risen up the ranks in recent years.

"Few remembered the name of this forgotten team," the South American football confederation CONMEBOL said of Chapecoense. "Now the whole continent knows it."

CONMEBOL said in a statement that it has been notified about the accident and has suspended all confederation activities.

Confederation President Alejandro Dominguez was on his way to Medellin, the statement said.

--IANS

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