More than 80 people have miraculously survived a horror plane crash after it slammed into a two-storey building soon after take-off in Kazakhstan.
Twelve people have been confirmed dead – including the pilot – and more than 50 were taken to hospital, authorities said.
Kazakhstan has observed a day of mourning after Friday’s shocking accident, with the government in the Central Asian country calling on the media not to broadcast entertainment on Saturday, according to Kazakh media.
The Bek Air Fokker 100 – which was carrying 93 passengers and five crew – got into trouble shortly after departing from Almaty, the country’s commercial centre, on a pre-dawn flight to the capital Nur-Sultan on Friday morning local time.
It lost altitude during take-off and broke through a concrete fence before hitting a two-storey building, Kazakhstan’s Civil Aviation Committee said. It was not immediately clear what caused the crash.
“The plane tilted to the left, then to the right, then it started shaking while still trying to gain altitude,” businessman Aslan Nazaraliyev, who survived the crash, told Reuters.
Investigators found scratch marks on the runway.
“Before crashing, the aircraft touched the runway with its tail twice, the gear was retracted,” Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar told reporters.
“A commission … will establish whether this was pilot error or technical issues. The runway was in an ideal condition.”
— kazpravda.kz (@kazpravda) December 27, 2019
A Reuters reporter saw the battered remains of the front of the plane and other parts of the fuselage scattered around what was left of the house.
A survivor told news website Tengrinews she heard a “terrifying sound” before the plane started losing altitude.
“The plane was flying at a tilt. Everything was like in a movie: screaming, shouting, people crying,” she said.
Authorities initially put the death toll at 15 or more but later revised the figure to 12. They said 49 people were in hospitals, some of them in a serious condition.
The plane had been carrying 93 passengers and five crew, and the interior ministry said the captain was among those killed.
The ministry said it was investigating a possible breach of flight operation and safety rules, a standard legal procedure.
Kazakhstan’s aviation committee said it was suspending all flights by carrier Bek Air and those of Fokker 100 aircraft pending the results of the investigation.
Mr Nazaraliyev said he had been seated next to an emergency exit in row 15 and all the rows in front of him were torn off when the plane broke in half on impact.
After the shaking started and before the crash, “I had enough time to put away my phone and fasten my seatbelt,” he said.
“We got out through the emergency exit … I and other men started getting people out and away from the plane. Some were trapped by concrete debris from the building. There were moans and screams and it was dark.”
На месте крушение поисково-спасательные работы продолжаются. На месте имеются предварительно пострадавших 6 человек из них 3-е детей, а также 7 трупов.
One of those killed, electrician Abai Nurbekov, was on the plane with his family of six, news website The Village reported. His wife and four children remained in intensive care.
In Almaty, residents flooded a local blood donation centre.
Authorities cordoned off the crash site in the village of Almerek, just beyond the end of the runway.
The airport remained operational with other planes taking off after the crash.
At the airport at Nur-Sultan, relatives of the passengers, some of whom were going to join their families for the holidays, were briefed on their fate and offered flights to Almaty.
“Those responsible will face tough punishment in accordance with the law,” Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev tweeted, expressing condolences to the victims and their families. He also ordered an audit of all Kazakh airlines.
Mr Tokayev declared December 28 a national day of mourning and appointed Prime Minister Askar Mamin to head a commission to investigate the crash.
Mr Mamin’s office said the commission will report preliminary findings by January 10.