Related News

Home » World

168 killed as plane explodes in Iran

A TUPOLEV aircraft crashed in Iran yesterday on its way to Armenia, after catching fire mid-air and ploughing into farmland killing all 168 people on board just 16 minutes after take-off.

In the worst crash in Iran for six years, the Russian-built Caspian Airlines plane, left only scattered bits of incinerated metal and fragments of the bodies of 153 passengers and 15 crew across a wide area around a deep smoking crater in the ground.

The aircraft, travelling to Armenia's capital of Yerevan from Tehran, crashed near the northwestern city of Qazvin just before noon local time.

Eight members of Iran's national junior judo team and two coaches were among the dead as well as a former Iranian MP representing Iran's Armenian minority and, reportedly, the wife of the head of Georgia's diplomatic mission in Iran.

"I saw a finger of a passenger on the ground. There is no sign of the airplane, just small pieces of metal," a witness told Reuters. "I did not see even a complete leg or arm."

Weeping relatives and friends gathered at Yerevan Airport where a notice listed people who were on board. Doctors treated relatives for shock and heart problems.

Six Armenian and two Georgian citizens were on board, the deputy head of the Armenian civilian aviation authority Arsen Poghosyan told a media briefing at Yerevan Airport. Two crew and 29 passengers were Iranian citizens with ethnic Armenian backgrounds, he said.

Fina Karapetian, an Armenian in her 30s, said her sister and two nephews, 11 and 6, were on board the crashed plane. "I heard everyone in the aircraft has died," she said, before fainting.

Iran is home to some 100,000 ethnic Armenians, many of whom frequently use the flights between Tehran and Yerevan to visit relatives in Armenia.

"The Tupolev plane has been totally destroyed and the corpses, unfortunately, have been totally burnt and destroyed," Massoud Jafarinasab, Qazvin police commander, told the semi-official Fars News Agency.

A local official said the aircraft had technical problems and tried to make an emergency landing. "Unfortunately the plane caught fire in the air and crashed," he told Fars.

A witness said he had seen the plane's left engine on fire in the air, state broadcaster IRIB said. But state radio said the pilot had made no mention of any technical problem in a taped conversation with a control tower.

"Fifteen or sixteen minutes after take-off the plane fell near the Iranian city Qazvin about 150 kilometers north of Tehran," Caspian Airlines' representative in Yerevan, Arlen Davudyan, told Reuters, adding that the cause of the crash was not clear nor had the black box been found.

"It's been a major disaster with pieces of aircraft spread over an area of 200 square metres," a fire brigade official told state television.

"There was an explosion which left an indentation 10 meters deep in the ground. There was nothing we could do. We tried to put out the fire as best we could."

A boarding card belonging to a Japanese citizen was found at the crash site, reports said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has ordered an inquiry into the crash.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend