A Turkish cargo jet has crashed near Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport, killing at least 37 people, most of them residents of a village struck by the Boeing 747 as it tried to land in dense fog, Kyrgyz officials said.
According to the airport administration, the plane was supposed to make a stopover at Manas, 25km north of capital Bishkek, on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul on Monday.
It crashed when trying to land in poor visibility at 7:31 local time (01:31 GMT).
The crash damaged 15 buildings in the village, said Mukhammed Svarov, head of the crisis management centre at the emergencies ministry, putting the toll at least 32 people after initially reporting 15 deaths.
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Medical staff said that six children were among the victims.
At least four pilots on the flight were among the dead, the emergency services ministry said, with one pilot’s body yet to be found.
The country’s Manas airport has been closed and flights cancelled until evening at the earliest, airport authorities said.
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ACT Airlines said in a statement that the plane involved in the crash belonged to its fleet.
Kyrgyz authorities earlier on Monday had stated that the aircraft belonged to Turkish Airlines, a claim the company denied.
ACT Airlines said it was “deeply saddened” by the accident and noted that “the cause of the accident is unknown.”
Around 43 houses were damaged by the crash, according to the emergency services ministry.
“The plane crashed into the houses, it killed entire families,” one witness told AFP news agency, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“There’s nothing left of the houses, people were killed with their whole family, their children. Many people were sleeping.”
Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov was heading a specially appointed government commission to probe the crash and the country’s state prosecutor also opened an investigation.
The Kyrgyz president, Almazbek Atambayev, cancelled his visit to China to return to Bishkek, according to Kyrgyz media.
Authorities said the country will observe a day of mourning on Tuesday.