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Plane with nearly 100 people on board crashes

December 27, 2019

A plane carrying 93 passengers and five crew members has crashed near Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan. Dozens of people have survived the crash with injuries.

Emergency workers attend to the plane wreck
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/AP/Emergency Situations Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan

A plane with 98 people on board crashed on Friday morning in southeastern Kazakhstan.

The Kazakh carrier Bek Air jet was heading to Nur-Sultan — formerly known as Astana — the nation's capital city.

Carrying 93 passengers and five crew, the Fokker 100 took off from Almaty International Airport at 7:05 a.m local time (0105 UTC) and lost altitude shortly afterwards.

Karte Kasachstan Nur-Sultan Almaty EN

At least 12 people died in the incident, including the pilot, and at least 54 people were hospitalized with injuries. Authorities said that 10 of the injured were in a critical condition. 

Read more: Kazakhstan rewrites its alphabet to shed its Soviet past

Plane hit a building

After the plane lost altitude, it broke through a concrete fence and hit a two-story building, Kazakhstan's Civil Aviation Committee said in a statement.

Authorities were investigating whether the crash was caused by pilot error or a technical problem.

Scene of Kazakh plane crash

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"Before crashing, the aircraft touched the runway with its tail twice, the gear was retracted," Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar told reporters.

"The aircraft split into two parts. Most of the passengers who died were in the front part," according to Skylar.

No fire broke out on board and emergency services immediately began working at the site. Rescue workers could be seen reaching into the windows of the shattered cockpit, as scores of emergency staff gathered at the site. 

In addition to Kazakh nationals, citizens of China, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine had also been on board.

Read more: Kazakhstan will continue to 'tiptoe' around China

'Terrifying sound' heard

One survivor told media she heard a "terrifying sound" before the plane started losing altitude. "The plane was flying with a tilt. Everything was like in a movie: screaming, shouting, people crying," she said.

A Fokker 100 jet split in two
The plane from Almaty to Nur-Sultan, the country's capital, crashed shortly after taking offImage: Reuters/P. Mikheyev

Another survivor, businessman Aslan Nazaraliyev, told the Vremya newspaper that the plane started shaking while gaining altitude about two minutes after takeoff.

"At some point, we started falling, not vertically, but at an angle. It seemed like control over the plane had been lost," he said.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told DW the report of shuddering could have been a sign of an ice build-up on the wings, while the large bang could be an indication of an engine failure.

Authorities have assured reporters that the plane was de-iced before takeoff, however, survivor Nazaraliyev recalled that the wings of the plane were covered in ice, and passengers who used emergency exits over the wings were slipping and falling down.

Thomas said many lives were saved by the fact that the fuel tank of the famously robust Fokker model did not rupture. He said the airline had no previous fatal incidents. The twin turbofan jet that crashed was 23 years old.


Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev shared his condolences to the victims and their families on Twitter, saying: "Those responsible will face tough punishment in accordance with the law." The government pledged to pay around $10,000 (€89,670) to the victims' families.

The Kazakh aviation committee has said it is suspending all Fokker 100 jets pending an investigation.

In March, a Bek Air Fokker-100 plane with 116 passengers made an emergency landing at the capital's international airport after its landing gear failed to deploy. None of the passengers or five-member crew were injured.

dj, aw, mm, kmm/sms (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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