A Philippines Air Force troop has plane crashed in flames, killing 45 people after some jumped from the fuselage in the country’s worst military air disaster in nearly 30 years.
Some soldiers were seen jumping off the aircraft before it crashed and exploded around noon on Sunday in the periphery of the Jolo airport in Sulu province, military officials said.
Two of six villagers who were hit on the ground have died.
Pictures from the scene showed flames and smoke pouring from wreckage strewn among trees as men in combat uniform milled around, while a column of thick black smoke rose from the coconut palms into the sky.
The Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations crashed with 96 aboard shortly before noon on Sunday at Bangkal village in Sulu province.
The plane had attempted to land at Jolo airport, but overshot the runway. It failed to regain enough power and height and crashed.
“A number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” the Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.
Military chief Cirilito Sobejana said the plane had “missed the runway trying to regain power”.
The army in the sprawling Philippine archipelago has been fighting a long war against Islamist militants from Abu Sayyaf and other factions.
Forty-two bodies were retrieved and 49 people were taken to hospital, leaving five military personnel unaccounted for, the military said in the statement, adding there was still hope for survivors.
Three civilians on the ground were also killed, and four were injured, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said.
A military spokesman, Colonel Edgard Arevalo, said there was no sign of any attack on the plane, but a crash investigation had yet to begin and efforts were focused on rescue and treatment.
The military command said the soldiers aboard had the rank of private, and were being deployed to their battalions. They were flying to the provincial airport of Jolo from Laguindingan, about 460 km to the northeast.
“They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” said Commander William N. Gonzales of Joint Task Force Sulu.