Forty-one persons have been confirmed dead after a Russian plane made an emergency landing and burst into flames just after take-off from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

Passengers made use of emergency exit slides to escape the burning Aeroflot aircraft.

The jet has 73 passengers and five crew members. Among the dead are two kids.

According to survivors, the plane was struck by lightning, but Russia’s national carrier said the plane returned to the airport for technical reasons.

The aircraft, a Sukhoi Superjet-100, left the airport at 18:02 local time (15:02 GMT), bound for Murmansk.

A distress signal was sent when “malfunctions” occurred in bad weather shortly after take-off.

After making an emergency landing at the airport, the plane’s engines caught fire on the runway, Aeroflot said, adding that the crew “did everything to save the passengers”.

Initial reports suggested the plane had landed on fire, but sources quoted by Russian news agency Interfax said the jet caught fire after a very bumpy landing.

The aircraft landed with full fuel tanks because the crew lost contact with air traffic controllers and decided it was too dangerous to dump fuel over Moscow, Interfax added.

Yelena Markovskaya, an official involved in the investigation of the crash said, 37 persons – 33 passengers and four crew members – survived the crash.

A flight attendant was also reportedly killed in the incident. Five people are in hospital. One witness said it was a “miracle” anyone escaped.

One passenger who survived the crash, Petr Egorov, was quoted by the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily newspaper as saying that the flight “had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning”, adding: “The landing was rough – I almost passed out from fear.”

Mikhail Savchenko claims he was on the plane when it exploded into a fireball on the tarmac but “managed to jump out”.

Another surviving passengers, Dmitry Khlebushkin, said that he was very grateful to the flight attendants. “Only thanks to the flight attendants, I survived,” he told reporters.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has set up a special committee ordered to investigate the crash.

A list of survivors (in Russian) has been published by Aeroflot.

Murmansk’s Acting Governor Andrey Chibis has reportedly said that the families of those killed in the fire will each receive one million rubles ($15,300; £11,630), while the victims being treated in hospital will be given 500,000 rubles ($7,650; £5,815).

The region of Murmansk has announced a three-day mourning period.

President Vladimir Putin has reportedly been briefed and expressed his condolences to the families of victims.