BISHKEK (Reuters) - A Turkish cargo jet 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 dense fog, Kyrgyz officials 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. (0131 GMT).
The doomed plane ploughed on for a few hundred metres (yards) through the Dachi Suu village, home to hundreds of families, shattering into pieces and damaging dozens of buildings.
Plumes of smoke rose above the crash site, with some mudbrick buildings razed to the ground and others pierced by parts of the plane.
The torn-off tail assembly, rotated upside down, towered above a one-storey house. A football pitch-sized area nearby was completely levelled and covered with twisted pieces of metal.
Locals said they had initially thought the area was struck by an earthquake.
“Around seven o’clock in the morning I heard a strong swat (noise) and after that all the nearest houses were shaken,” said local resident 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.”
Initial estimates put the death toll from the crash at 37, said Kyrgyzstan’s emergencies ministry. Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev announced Tuesday would be a national day of mourning.
Turkish Airlines 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.
“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.”
Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Additional reporting by Marlis Myrzakul Uulu in Bishkek, Daren Butler in Istanbul and Venus Wu in Hong Kong; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Toby Chopra