A Turkish cargo jet has crashed in Kyrgyzstan, killing at least four pilots and dozens of people on the ground.Most of the victims are believed to be residents of the village of Dacha-Suu, where the Boeing 747 came down in dense fog near Manas airport.
The plane, which was carrying at least four pilots, crashed as it tried to land at around 7.30am local time (1.30am UK time) in an area near the capital Bishkek. An official has said pilot error was to blame for the crash.
Mukhammed Svarov, head of the crisis management centre at the Kyrgyzstan emergencies ministry, said the plane ploughed through the village for several hundred metres, damaging 15 buildings.
“The damage to infrastructure in the village is significant,” he said, adding that the number of dead “could be bigger” than the 37 fatalities confirmed so far. “The plane crashed into the houses, it killed entire families,” a witness told AFP.
“There’s nothing left of the houses, people were killed with their whole family, their children. Many people were sleeping.” Pictures from the scene showed the nose of the plane stuck inside a house with large fragments of debris scattered around.
Residents in the area said they initially thought an earthquake had hit. The emergency services ministry said one pilot’s body had yet to be found. Fifteen people, six of them children, have been taken to hospital.
Airport officials said the jet had been due to make a stopover at Manas on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul. It identified the plane as a Turkish Airlines Boeing 747-400, but the company said it belonged to another Turkish firm, ACT Airlines.
“Our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in the tragic incident involving an ACT Airlines aircraft in Kyrgyzstan,” Turkish Airlines said on its Twitter account.
ACT said in a statement: “Our TC-MCL signed plane, flying on 16 January from Hong Kong to Bishkek, crashed on landing at Bishkek at the end of the runway for an unknown reason.”
Manas has been expanded considerably since the US started to operate a military installation at the airport, using it primarily for its operations in Afghanistan.