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The fumes from the wreckage of Singapore Airlines Flight SQ006 wafted sharply through the rain and typhoon winds at Taipei's international airport as emergency workers searched the smouldering debris for victims.

While their grim task continued, survivors recounted their horrifying stories in hospitals across Taipei.

The Los Angeles-bound Boeing 747 crashed and burst into a ball of flames seconds after takeoff yesterday.

"The aircraft was broken into three sections and seriously destroyed by fire," said Simon Kwong, a Reuters photographer at the scene. "Even with strong winds and heavy rains, I can still smell the burning."

Sixty-eight people were being treated in hospital, while 16 walked away without a scratch. Some crash survivors were still dazed, while others shuddered as they recounted how they defied death.

"All of a sudden, there was a bang and chaos and flying debris and all of a sudden the tail was lying on the side," said American biochemist Harald Linge, who was seated in the rear of the jetliner.

"The thing I remember most clearly was people on the right side dangling from their seats. It was very eerie . . . I was glad I made it out alive."

At the other end of the plane in business class, Yu Lu-yun, a 46-year-old Taiwan businessman, said their was terrible shaking as the jetliner was trying to take off.

"Less than 10 seconds after takeoff, the plane just fell. Then there was fire on the left side of the cabin, and then smoke everywhere," Mr. Yu said.

Many survivors said something was wrong even before takeoff.

"Before the plane left the ground I felt the ceiling was about to fall," Su Ching-ping said.

"When the ceiling did fall, I thought it was all over," said Ms. Su, whose hair was singed by fire as she struggled to escape.

Richard Maneth, 39, of the United States, said he passed several burned bodies as he fled.