updated 7/25/2008 1:47:38 AM ET 2008-07-25T05:47:38

A plane taking off from New Delhi's main airport caught fire forcing all 252 passengers and crew to escape through an emergency exit, airport officials said Friday.

The Air Mauritius pilot apparently braked suddenly as the plane prepared for takeoff, and this might have sparked a fire that spread to the jetliner's undercarriage, said Indira Gandhi International Airport spokesman Arun Arora.

Rescue workers and firefighters rushed to evacuate the plane and put out the blaze Thursday afternoon.

All 241 passengers and 11 crew on the New Delhi to Mauritius flight escaped safely through the emergency exit, although there was some panic, newspapers reported.

"The children were crying and the elderly were finding it difficult to get out of the plane," Rahul Gautam, an insurance salesman who was on the flight, told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

Local media reported the accident was caused by a bird that hit the plane, but Arora could not confirm that and said the incident was under investigation.

Air Mauritius officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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