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Dozens presumed dead as plane crashes in Iran

Sky News logo Sky News 18/2/2018

A French-made ATR-72 owned by Iran's Aseman Airlines sits on the tarmac at Dubai airport on July 29, 2008

A French-made ATR-72 owned by Iran's Aseman Airlines sits on the tarmac at Dubai airport on July 29, 2008
© Getty

Dozens of people are presumed dead after a plane crashed in a foggy, mountainous region in southern Iran.

The plane had 59 passengers on board, as well as a pilot, co-pilot, two flight attendants and two air marshals.

A spokesman for Aseman Airlines originally said that there were 66 people on board, but state media later reported that one passenger had actually missed the flight, bringing the likely death toll to 65.

The 24-year-old ATR-72, a twin-engine turboprop, left the Iranian capital Tehran at around 8am local time and crashed about an hour later.

The plane went down near the remote mountain town of Semirom, about 390 miles south of Tehran.

It had been heading to the southern city of Yasuj, in Isfahan province.

Aseman Airlines spokesman Mohammad Taghi Tabatabai said one child was among the passengers, and six crew.

He added: "After searches in the area, unfortunately we were informed that the plane crashed.

"Unfortunately, all our dear ones lost their lives in this incident."

Later, however, he reportedly told ISNA news agency: "Given the special circumstances of the region, we still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers of this plane."

The plane is thought to have crashed into Mount Dena, a sub-range of the Zagros Mountains.

According to Mehr News Agency, it appeared to have been attempting an emergency landing.

State TV said nobody had yet managed to reach the scene.

Fog is preventing helicopters from getting there and Iran's Red Crescent has deployed workers on foot.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement: "The very tragic incident of a passenger plane crashing on Tehran-Yasuj route, which led to the death of a number of our fellow Iranians, caused great grief and sorrow.

"I hereby express sympathy with the bereaved families and offer my condolences to the Iranian nation, asking the Almighty mercy for those who lost their lives, and patience and rewards for their bereaved families."

Aseman is a semi-private airline that specialises in flights to remote airfields in Iran and also flies to some international destinations.

The carrier, Iran's third largest, has 29 planes, including six ATR-72 aircraft, according to plane-tracking website FlightRadar24.

Iran's commercial air fleet has suffered during decades of international sanctions that have made it difficult to buy newer aircraft, with planes being involved in a number of accidents.

Aviation analyst Alex Macheras told Sky News: "Flying an older plane in Europe, the West, Asia, is very very safe because we have excellent maintenance.

"But in Iran, flying an older aircraft is increasing the risk, because they simply do not have access to the spare parts - because of these sanctions - to require and carry out the necessary maintenance."

After the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement loosened the restrictions, the country signed deals to buy dozens of new passenger planes, including a $536m (£382m) deal with ATR last April for at least 20 aircraft.

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