ZURICH, NOV. 14 -- An Alitalia DC-9 jetliner approaching Zurich airport crashed into a wooded hillside and burned tonight, killing all 40 passengers and six crew aboard, police said.

Witnesses reported what appeared to be fire and explosions before the plane hit, police in the Swiss city told a news conference. Flight AZ404 of the Italian airline, coming from Milan, crashed about 8:20 p.m. (2:20 p.m. EST) five miles north of Kloten international airport outside Zurich, airport spokesman Peter Gutknecht said.

Only a few on board were Italians, an Alitalia spokeswoman said. Italian reports said most of the other passengers apparently were Swiss and Japanese.

The Swiss Federal Meteorological Office said visibility at the time of the crash was good -- up to 10 miles, with light rain and light winds. Fire raged in the wreckage and woods for at least 1 1/2 hours, police said.

Italy's state-run RAI television said first reports appear to discount the possibility of a terrorist act, but that the crash did not seemed linked to the weather.

The jet cut a swath through the forest and broke apart on impact, witnesses said. Smoking wreckage, covered with firefighting foam, was scattered about the muddy hillside. The tail section had broken off.