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Kyrgyzstan says 37 dead after Turkish cargo plane hits village

AFP logoAFP 16/01/2017 Tolkun Namatbayeva

The crash of a Turkish cargo plane in Kyrgyzstan that claimed at least 37 lives on Monday was caused by "pilot error," authorities in the Central Asian country said.

"According to preliminary information, the plane crashed due to a pilot error," deputy prime minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev said at a briefing broadcast on state television.

The plane crashed into a village near Kyrgyzstan's main airport on Monday, killing at least 37 people and destroying houses after attempting to land in thick fog, authorities said.

A massive section of the aircraft's tail billowed smoke as rescuers worked in the village of Dacha-Suu, home to the majority of the dead, a spokesman for the country's emergency services, Muhammed Svarov, told AFP.

Crushed cars, shattered homes and chunks of burnt plane wreckage littered the village, which was hit by the plane at around 7:30 am local time (0130 GMT), as many residents were still at home.

Zumriyat Rezakhanova, a resident of Dacha-Suu, said the plane fell "right on the homes" where residents were sleeping.

The wreckage of a Turkish cargo plane is seen after it crashed in the village of Dacha-Suu outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on January 16, 2017 © Provided by AFP The wreckage of a Turkish cargo plane is seen after it crashed in the village of Dacha-Suu outside Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on January 16, 2017

"My sister's home is badly damaged. Luckily she and her family survived," Rezakhanova told AFP.

At least four pilots on the flight, which was travelling from Hong Kong to Istanbul via Kyrgyzstan's capital Bishkek, were among the dead, the emergency services ministry said, with one pilot's body yet to be found.

ACT Airlines, a Turkish cargo airline, said in a statement that the plane involved in the crash belonged to it. Kyrgyz authorities earlier on Monday had stated that the aircraft belonged to Turkish Airlines, a claim the company denied.

ACT Airlines said it was "deeply saddened" by the accident and noted that "the cause of the accident is unknown."

Turkish cargo plane crash © Provided by AFP Turkish cargo plane crash Around 43 houses were damaged by the crash, according to the emergency services ministry.

"The plane crashed into the houses, it killed entire families," one eyewitness told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"There's nothing left of the houses, people were killed with their whole family, their children. Many people were sleeping."

Rescue personnel work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo plane in the village of Dacha-Suu outside Bishkek, on January 16, 2017 © Provided by AFP Rescue personnel work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo plane in the village of Dacha-Suu outside Bishkek, on January 16, 2017 The country's Manas airport has been closed and flights cancelled until evening at the earliest, airport authorities said.

Prime Minister Sooronbai Jeenbekov was heading a specially-appointed government commission to probe the crash and the country's state prosecutor also opened an investigation.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev cancelled his visit to China to return to Bishkek, according to Kyrgyz media.

Authorities said the country will observe a day of mourning on Tuesday.

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