A Turkish cargo plane crashed near Kyrgyzstan’s Manas airport on Monday, killing at least 37 people, most of them residents of a village struck by the Boeing 747 as it tried to land in thick fog, authorities said.
According to the airport administration, the plane was supposed to make a stopover at Manas, near the capital city Bishkek, on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul. It crashed when trying to land in poor visibility at 7:31 a.m.
The doomed plane ploughed for a few hundred meters through the village, shattering into pieces and damaging some 15 buildings.
Initial estimates put the death toll from the crash at 37, said Kyrgyzstan’s emergencies ministry.
The majority of the dead were from the village of Dacha-Suu where the plane hit, a spokesman for the country’s emergency services, Muhammed Svarov, told AFP.
The total number of dead “could be bigger” Svarov said, adding that authorities had launched a huge search and rescue operation.
Kyrgyz officials initially identified the Boeing 747-400 as belonging to Turkish Airlines, but Turkish cargo operator ACT Airlines said the jet was theirs.
“Our TC-MCL signed plane, flying on Jan. 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.
“More information will be disclosed concerning our four-person team when we get clear information.”
Zumriyat Rezakhanova, a resident of Dacha-Suu said the plane fell “right on the homes” where residents were sleeping.
“My sister’s home is badly damaged. Luckily she and her family survived,” Rezakhanova told AFP.
The country’s Manas airport has been closed and flights cancelled until evening at the earliest, airport authorities said.
Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov was heading a specially-appointed government commission to investigate the circumstances of the crash.
Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev cancelled his visit to China to return to Bishkek, according to Kyrgyz media.