International News

41 reported killed after Russian passenger plane crash-lands in Moscow

A Russian passenger plane erupted in a huge ball of fire and black smoke after making an emergency landing at Moscow’s busiest airport, killing 41 people including at least two children.
Dramatic footage that went viral on social media showed Aeroflot´s Sukhoi Superjet 100 aircraft crash-landing and then speeding along the runway at Sheremetyevo international airport on Sunday, flames pouring from its fuselage.
Passengers could be seen leaping onto an inflatable slide at the front and running from the blazing plane as huge black columns of smoke billowed into the sky.
Investigators said 41 people had died. “There were 78 people including crew members on board the plane,” which was bound for the northwestern city of Murmansk, Russia´s Investigative Committee said in a statement.
“According to the updated info which the investigation has as of now, 37 people survived.”
Eleven people were injured, Dmitry Matveyev, the Moscow region’s health minister said earlier in the day.
The Superjet-100 carrying 73 passengers and five crew members had just left Sheremetyevo on a domestic route when the crew issued a distress signal, officials said.
A Russian-made Superjet-100 that caught fire before making an emergency landing at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow, Russia, May 5, 2019. AFP/Viktor Marchukaites “Flight Su-1492 took off on schedule at 6:02 pm (15H02 GMT),” said a statement from the airport.
“After the take-off, the crew reported an anomaly and decided to come back to the departure airport. At 6:30 pm, the aircraft made an emergency landing,” it added.
The tabloid newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda quoted one passenger, Petr Egorov, who said: “We had just taken off and the aircraft was hit by lightning…. The landing was rough, I almost passed out from fear.”
“The plane sent out a distress signal after takeoff,” a source told Interfax news agency.
“It attempted an emergency landing but did not succeed the first time, and on the second time the landing gear hit (the ground), then the nose did, and it caught fire,” the source added.
Interfax, citing an anonymous source, said the plane had landed with its fuel tanks full because, having lost contact with air traffic controllers, it was too dangerous to dump its fuel tanks over Moscow.
According to the Ria Novosti news agency, the plane had been headed to the far northwest city of Murmansk in Russia. It said initial findings suggested an electrical fault might have caused the blaze.
In a statement, Aeroflot said the motors were likely to have caught fire mid-air.
Investigators have opened a criminal probe into a possible breach of security rules.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitri Peskov said Russian Vladimir Putin had offered his condolences to the victims’ loved ones.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has also ordered a special committee to investigate the disaster, Ria Novosti agency reported.
Several flights have been diverted to other Moscow airports or Nizhny Novgorod, some 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of the Russian capital.
The Sukhoi Superjet-100 was the first civilian aircraft developed in Russia’s post-Soviet era and at the time of its launch, in 2011, was a source of national pride.
But it struggled to convince buyers from airlines outside Russia, and several foreign airlines that did buy it have since prefered to cut back its use or phase it out completely, citing its reliability.
The Russian government offered subsidies to encourage Russian airlines to buy the Superjet and Russian airline Aeroflot became its main operator. In September 2018, it announced a record order of 100 Superjet-100s.