Sun | Jun 24, 2018

Over 100 persons feared dead in Cuba plane crash

Published:Saturday | May 19, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Forensic investigators and Ministry of Interior officers sift through remains of a Boeing 737 that plummeted into a yuca field with more than 100 passengers on board in Havana, Cuba, yesterday.

HAVANA (AP):

A Cuban-operated airliner, with at least 110 people aboard, crashed and burned in a cassava field just after takeoff from the Havana airport yesterday. Cuban media have reported three survivors.

The Boeing 737 went down just after noon a short distance from the end of the runway at the JosÈ MartÌ International Airport while on a short-hop flight to the eastern city of HolguÌn. Firefighters rushed to extinguish the flames that engulfed the jet.

"There is a high number of people who appear to have died," Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said from the scene. "Things have been organised, the fire has been put out, and the remains are being identified."

Relatives of those aboard were ushered into a private area at the terminal to await word on their loved ones.

"My daughter is 24. My God! She's only 24!" cried Beatriz Pantoja, whose daughter, Leticia, was on the plane.

CAUSE OF THE CRASH

The cause of the disaster was under investigation. State TV said that the jet veered sharply to the right after takeoff.

Authorities said that there were 104 passengers and nine crew members on the flight, operated by Cubana, the Cuban state airline. An employee who answered the phone at the Mexico City office of the charter business Aerolinea Global Air said that the plane belonged to the company and had a six-person Mexican crew.

Cubana is notorious for delays and cancellations and has taken many of its planes out of service because of maintenance problems in recent months, prompting it to hire charter aircraft from other companies.

Four crash survivors were taken to a Havana hospital, and three remained alive as of mid-afternoon, hospital director MartÌnez Blanco told Cuban State TV. State media reports stopped short of saying that the rest were dead.

On Thursday, Cuban First Vice-President Salvador Valdes Mesa met with Cubana officials to discuss improvements to its service. The airline blames its spotty record on a lack of parts and airplanes because of the United States trade embargo against the communist island. It was Cuba's third major aviation accident since 2010.