A Turkish cargo jet crashed on Monday in a residential neighborhood just outside the main airport in Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport, killing at least 37 people and almost 10 people were wounded, most of them residents of a village struck by a Turkish Airlines Boeing 747 cargo plane as it tried to land in dense fog, Kyrgyz officials have said.
According to the airport administration, the incident occurred at 7:31 a.m. local time (8:31 p.m. ET on Sunday), amid poor weather conditions (visibility) as the pilot was attempting to land the aircraft at the Manas airport, 25km north of the capital city Bishkek, for supposed to make a refuelling stop, when on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul, Turkey. Local media reports suggested that around 43 buildings in a dacha community (basic housing on the outskirts of major former Soviet cities) were ploughed upon impact.
More than a thousand rescue workers were working on the scene by late morning in the residential area where 15 houses have been destroyed, Deputy Prime Minister Mukhammetkaly Abulgaziyev said. Nine firefighting trucks and over 40 firefighters are operating at the crash site. A government commission has been set up to examine the causes of the tragedy.
“A cargo plane crashed due to difficult weather conditions…. Emergency services are at work at the crash site,” Mukhammed Svarov, the head of crisis management centre at the emergencies ministry, reportedly said.
The local media is reporting varying figures of fatalities. According to emergency officials in the Central Asian nation, on Monday the death toll has swelled to around 37, the presidential press office which also said rescue teams have recovered 31 bodies as well as the body fragments of nine bodies. The impact of the crash killed 17 people on board and at least 15 living next to the airport – including 12 children and an entire family. At least four pilots on the flight were among dead, the emergency services ministry said. Bishkek ambulance station Yegor Borisov said that six of the victims were children and they have been hospitalized.
Locals said they had thought at first the area had been struck by an earthquake. “Around seven o’clock in the morning I heard a strong [noise] and after that all the nearest houses were shaken,” said Andrei Andreyev. “Of course, everyone got frightened and started to run out of the houses to the street.
“Nobody understood what was going on because there was a fog, the weather was not good.”
Kyrgyz authorities earlier on Monday had stated that the aircraft belonged to Turkish Airlines, a claim the company denied. Turkish Airlines (THYAO.IS) said in a statement that the cargo flight was operated by ACT Airlines and neither the Boeing 747-400 aircraft nor the crew belonged to Turkish Airlines. Turkish cargo operator ACT Airlines also said the jet was theirs. ACT Airlines said it was “deeply saddened” by the accident and noted that “the cause of the accident is unknown.”
“Our TC-MCL signed plane, flying on January 16 from Hong Kong to Bishkek,crashed on landing at Bishkek at the end of the runway for an unknown reason,” ACT Airlines said in an emailed statement.
Minister of Transport Jamshitbek Kalilov, Deputy Prime Muhametkalyi Abulgaziyev, Minister of Emergencies Kubatbek Boronov are reportedly headed to the crash site. The country’s Manas airport has been closed as emergency services try to deal with the tragedy and flights cancelled until evening, airport authorities said. The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov told reporters that it was foggy at Manas when the plane came down but weather conditions were not critical.
The Kyrgyz president, Almazbek Atambayev, announced that Tuesday would be a national day of mourning.