Kyrgyzstan ministry says cargo plane crash kills 37

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - A Turkish cargo plane crashed Monday in a residential area just outside the main airport in Kyrgyzstan, killing 37 people on the ground and in the plane, the Emergency Situations Ministry said.

The Boeing 747 crashed on approach to the Manas airport, south of the capital, Bishkek.

Reports of the death toll ranged from 37 people, according to emergency officials in the Central Asian nation, to 31 reported by the presidential press office which also said rescue teams had recovered parts of nine bodies. Fifteen people including six children have been hospitalized.

Footage from the scene showed the plane's nose stuck inside a brick house and large chunks of debris scattered around. A dozen body bags were laid out on the ground in the yard of one of the homes. A car parked nearby was mangled, and a fridge lying open nearby.

Kyrgyz Emergency Situations Minister Kubatbek Boronov said that 23 out of 43 houses in the village have been destroyed. Several dozen private houses are near the fence separating the cottages from the runway.

The Manas airport has been considerably expanded since the United States began to operate a military installation there, using it primarily for its operations in Afghanistan. The U.S. handed the base over to the Kyrgyz military in 2014.

"I woke up because of a bright red light outside," Baktygul Kurbatova, who was slightly injured, told local television. "I couldn't understand what was happening. It turns out the ceiling and the walls were crashing on us. I was so scared but I managed to cover my son's face with my hands so that debris would not fall on him."

More than 1,000 rescue workers were at the scene by late morning, Abulgaziyev said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately clear. Emergency Situations Minister Boronov told reporters that it was foggy at Manas when the plane came down but weather conditions were not critical.

One of the two flight recorders has been recovered at the scene, the office of the Kyrgyz prime minister said on Monday afternoon.

The plane, which had departed from Hong Kong, belonged to Istanbul-based cargo company ACT Airlines. It said in an emailed statement that the cause was unknown.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday called his Kyrgyz counterpart, Erlan Abdildaev, to offer Turkey's condolences, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said.

The Turkish transportation ministry said it was sending two experts from its accident investigation board to Bishkek to assist Kyrgyz authorities.

The statement followed a telephone call between the Turkish and Kyrgyz transportations ministers, during which the Turkish minister conveyed his condolences and offered "every kind of support" to Kyrgyzstan.


Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara.