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Boeing 747 crash kills dozens, destroys half of village

Last Updated Jan 16, 2017 3:25 PM EST

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- A Turkish cargo plane crashed Monday in a residential area just outside the main airport in Kyrgyzstan, destroying half of a village and killing at least 37 people in the plane and on the ground, the Emergency Situations Ministry said. 

The Turkish Boeing 747 crashed just outside the Manas airport, south of the capital Bishkek, killing people in the residential area adjacent to the airport as well as those on the plane.

The bodies of 15 victims, including five children, all of them Kyrgyz citizens, had been identified by Monday evening, the Kyrgyz government said on its website.

Another 15 people, including six children, were hospitalized in the disaster, according to the health ministry.

Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov said 23 out of the 43 houses in the village had been destroyed. Several dozen homes were near the fence surrounding the runway. 

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Boronov told reporters that it was foggy at Manas when the plane came down but weather conditions were not critical. The nation’s deputy prime minister was quoted as saying the crash was the result of human error.

“According to preliminary information, the plane crashed due to a pilot error,” deputy prime minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev said on national television, according to French news agency AFP.  

One of the plane’s two flight recorders was recovered at the scene, according to the Kyrgyz prime minister’s office.

Images from the scene showed the plane’s nose stuck inside a brick house and large chunks of debris scattered around.

Several dozen private houses cluster just outside the metal fence separating the cottages from the runway. Manas has been considerably expanded since the United States began to operate a military installation at the Manas airport, using it primarily for its operations in Afghanistan. American troops vacated the base and handed it over to the Kyrgyz military in 2014.

The plane, which had departed from Hong Kong, belonged to the Istanbul-based cargo company ACT Airlines, which said the dead included the plane’s four Turkish crew members: two pilots, a freight expert and a flight technician.

ACT Airlines, which did not specify the plane’s cargo, said that the crash wasn’t the result of “technical reasons or factors linked to the freight” on the plane. It said the plane’s records book had no record of any technical faults and said that the plane had not encountered any mishaps during its journey or as it proceeded to land at Bishkek.

“I woke up because of a bright red light outside,” Baktygul Kurbatova, who was slightly injured, told local television. “I couldn’t understand what was happening. It turns out the ceiling and the walls were crashing on us. I was so scared but I managed to cover my son’s face with my hands so that debris would not fall on him.”

More than a thousand rescue workers were at the scene by late morning, Deputy Prime Minister Mukhammetkaly Abulgaziyev said.

Boeing tweeted its condolensces:

To see a video of the crash aftermath provided by the Bishkek-based media company Zanoza, click here.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev to express his condolences and convey his sadness at the loss of lives in the disaster. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also called his Kyrgyz counterpart, Erlan Abdildaev, to offer Turkey’s condolences, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said. 

Turkey’s transportation ministry sent two experts from its accident investigation board to Bishkek to assist Kyrgyz authorities.