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MANILA: A Philippines Air Force troop plane crashed and broke up in flames on a southern island on Sunday, killing at least 45 people after some jumped free, officials said, in the country's worst military air disaster in nearly 30 years. Pictures from the scene showed flames and smoke pouring from wreckage strewn among coconut palms as men in combat uniform milled around, while a column of thick black smoke rose into the sky.

The Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft, carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations, crashed with 96 people on board. The plane had attempted to land at Jolo airport, but overshot the runway without touching down. It failed to regain enough power and height and crashed at nearby Patikul. "A number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash," the Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear how many jumped or whether they had survived. Military chief Cirilito Sobejana said the plane had "missed the runway trying to regain power". The Department of National Defence said 45 people had been killed, including three civilians on the ground, while 53 were injured, including four civilians. Five military personnel were still missing.

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