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Cargo aircraft crashes in northern Greece

July 17, 2022

The plane had reportedly requested clearance for an emergency landing at nearby Kavala airport but did not manage to reach it. All eight crew members were later confirmed to have died.

Debris of an Antonov cargo plane is seen in Palaiochori village in northern Greece
The Antonov cargo plane was reportedly on its way from Serbia to Bangladesh, carrying weaponsImage: Giannis Papanikos/AP Photo/picture alliance

A cargo aircraft crashed near Palaiochori Kavalas in northern Greece late Saturday, killing all eight people on board.   

The plane operated by Ukraine-based airline Meridian was traveling from Nis in Serbia and on to Bangladesh, via Jordan.

The pilot had reportedly requested clearance to make an emergency landing at nearby Kavala airport due to an engine problem but did not manage to reach it. Communication with the plane ceased almost immediately afterward.

The aircraft was already in flames before it crashed, people close to the crash site told local media. 

The mayor of the affected community of Pangeo, Filippos Anastasiadis, said that the plane had been carrying "dangerous material," likely ammunition. 

Ongoing explosions at the crash site, say officials

The plane was an Antonov An-12 aircraft — a Soviet-built, four-engine turboprop aircraft — owned by a Ukrainian company.

It was carrying mines and around 11 metric tons of weapons to Bangladesh, which had bought the arms. Serbia's defense minister, Nebojsa Stefanovic, said the cargo included illuminating mortar shells and training shells. It had taken off mid-evening local time from Nis.

Stefanovic said the crew, who were Ukrainian, were all killed.

The plane crashed on farmland close to two villages that are part of the Paggaio municipality. The fire service said in a statement that it has cordoned off the site. 

Local officials said 15 firefighters and seven fire engines were initially deployed to the area. Firefighters faced difficulty approaching the site because of the ongoing explosions, officials said.

Firefighting vehicles are seen near the site of a plane crash, a few miles away from the city of Kavala, in northern Greece
The special disaster response unit was also investigating the sceneImage: llias Kotsireas/AP Photo/picture alliance

Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks. Authorities said they did not know if there were dangerous chemicals — including those contained in batteries — on the plane.

A specialist Greek military army unit that looks for nuclear, biological and chemical substances was expected to comb the site. 

sri,rc/wd (AFP, dpa, AP, Reuters)