Dozens of passengers aboard an Itek Air Boeing 737-200 have died after the aircraft crashed shortly after departure from ?xml:namespace>Manas Airport in Bishkek, capital of Kyrgyzstan, on Sunday.
The aircraft was bound for Teheran, Iran with 83 passengers and seven crew members, according to Russian and Kyrgyz news reports. There were 51 foreigners among the passengers, including Iranian, Turkish, Chinese and Canadian nationals.
There were contradictory reports on the number of fatalities. The Kyrgyzstan health ministry said that 71 people had died, the prime minister’s office put the figure at 68, and airport officials were saying that the number was more than 80.
According to news reports, the pilot made an emergency landing in a field at Dzhangi-Dzher around 20:40 local time (14:40 GMT), just 10 minutes after take-off. However, the aircraft crashed-landed and was engulfed in flames soon after.
Little else regarding the circumstances of the accident was revealed and Kyrgyz officials had cordoned off the crash site. Weather conditions were reported to be good at the reported time of departure.
Bishkek-based Itek Air claims to operate three 737-200s, but the airframe involved in the accident has not been identified. The airline has been barred from landing in European Union airports due to its allegedly poor safety record.