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More Than 30 Killed In Cargo Plane Crash In Kyrgyzstan


BISHKEK -- A Turkish cargo plane crashed in foggy weather near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport early on January 16, slamming into a village and killing at least 32 people, authorities said.

Most of the dead were residents of the village of Dacha-Suu where the plane crashed at 7:31 a.m. local time and many others were reported injured. All four crew members were also killed.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev declared January 17 a national day of mourning for the victims of the crash, the president’s press service announced.

Images from the scene of the crash showed the nose of the Boeing 747 plane stuck inside a brick house in the village near the capital, Bishkek, and a huge section of the tail jutting out of the debris.

PHOTO GALLERY: Scene Of Turkish Air Crash In Kyrgyz Village

Government spokeswoman Tolgonai Stamalieva said the plane, which was en route from Hong Kong to Istanbul, damaged some 20 homes when it crashed while trying to land at Manas International Airport for a refueling stop.

Residents of Dacha-Suu said many in the village were at home, preparing for work or school, when the plane crashed.

"I was getting my daughter ready for school when I heard a terrible noise," one woman in Dacha-Suu said. "I rushed out of the house and saw something like a plane's wing moving fast, crushing everything."

She said the top story of her neighbor's home was shorn off in the crash.

WATCH: Scenes from the crash site

Residents began struggling to rescue people trapped in damaged homes before emergency workers arrived, RFE/RL correspondents at the scene reported.

"We found one girl alive and a family of four also survived. We helped them to get out of the debris," one man said. "The firefighters arrived at around 8 a.m. and ambulances came later."

"In a family I know, just one child survived, only because he had left the house for school," another resident said. "All the others died."

One man said his brother's family was awakened by a loud noise "and saw a huge airplane tire smashing the windows and falling inside their home."

A wheel from the plane is seen inside a house.
A wheel from the plane is seen inside a house.

He said that his brother's family escaped unharmed but that another family of four -- also his relatives -- was wiped out.

"Only fragments of their bodies were found," the man told RFE/RL.

The Emergency Situations Ministry said preliminary reports indicated 37 people were killed. The Health Ministry said that 32 bodies and dozens of body parts had been brought to the morgue.

There were 13 children among the dead, the ministry said.

At least 15 bodies had been identified, health authorities said, adding some bodies had been badly burned, making them difficult to identify.

The plane belonged to the Istanbul-based cargo company ACT Airlines, which said in a statement that it "crashed on landing at Bishkek at the end of the runway for an unknown reason."

Deputy Prime Minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev told a news conference that "preliminary information" pointed to pilot error.

The area where the plane crashed was foggy at the time, and the airport administration said visibility was poor.

Kyrgyz prosecutors said they had launched a criminal investigation, which is common practice in the case of air crashes and other accidents.

Kyrgyz officials said representatives of the Interstate Aviation Committee and Turkish authorities would join the crash investigation on January 17.

They said the crew had flown the plane along the same route for the last few months and were familiar with the area.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called his Kyrgyz counterpart, Erlan Abdildaev, to offer his country's condolences, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa, and TASS
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