Nineteen of the 37 Marines airlifted here after a freak fire in Japan are burned over half their bodies and have less than a 50-50 chance of survival, the head of the Amry's burn unit said yesterday.

"We anticipate more deaths," said Col. Basil A. Pruitt Jr., who commands Brooke Army Medical Center. Three Marines have already died from the fire.

Pruitt said four of the victims were burned over more than 80 percent of their bodies and seven had burns covering 60 percent of their bodies.

"As a group, there's a little less than a 50-50 chance of survival with burns this critical," Pruitt said.

He said the Marines would have a better chance than most burn victims because they are all young, from 17 to 22 years old, and in excellent physical condtion.

An 18-member burn team, dispatched from Brooke to Japan Friday, attended them during the grueling 14-hour flight to San Antonio Sunday.

More than 70 sleeping Marines were burned Friday afternoon when fire swept through an enlisted man's barracks at the Mount Fuji base, 90 miles southwest of Tokyo.

The fuel in a 5,000 gallon container ignited after it was damaged by wind and rain from Typhoon Tip.