27 December, 2019

Bek Air plane crashes near Almaty airport, Kazakhstan

A Fokker 100 of Bek Air has crashed just after taking off from Almaty - Kazakhstan's largest city - heading to Nur-Sultan, the nation's capital, previously named Astana earlier today.

The aircraft was carrying 95 passengers, according to the Kazakhstan Interior Ministry, along with five crew.  Whilst the cause is not yet known, it's understood the local weather conditions of thick fog and snow may have contributed to the crash.

Local media is reporting that at least 12 people have died in the crash with around 60 people being taken to hospital for treatment.  The flight is understood to have departed at 0721 local time, 0121 GMT, and according to Flightradar24 "the last signal was received in that same minute".  AlmatyAirport said the aircraft lost height at 0722 local before striking a concrete barrier and crashing into a two-storey building. There were no reports of fire upon impact,  news video from the scene can be found here.

Aslan Nazaraliyev was on the aircraft and told the media it began vibrating violently after take-off and people screamed and the aircraft smashed into the ground.  The plane was crushed like "an aluminium can", the businessman said, adding that those in the front rows were badly injured or killed.

"It was ugly. It was dark. We were lighting with cell phone lights," Mr Nazaraliyev said, explaining how others managed to get out and help fellow passengers to safety. 

Another survivor told Tengrinews news site that she had heard a "terrifying sound" before the plane started losing altitude, "The plane was flying with a tilt. Everything was like in a movie: screaming, shouting, people crying."

The Fokker 100 was 23 years old and in May it was issued with its most recent flight safety certificate.  The Kazakhstan aviation committee has confirmed it has suspended all flights by the aircraft type while the investigation is ongoing. 

According to the authorioties, around 1,000 people were working at the crash site, in the village of Almerek, which lies just beyond the runway.  It's has been reported that the aircraft came to a halt after crashing into a house. The area is covered in snow, which according to locals is normal conditions for this time of the year. 

Temperatures are reported to have been around minus 12 at the airport just prior to the aircraft departed, which has lead to some industry commentators to speculate that a build-up of ice or snow on the wings could be a contributory factor in the crash.  Indeed there have been other crashes of Fokker 100 aircraft which have been blamed on ice build-up on the wings. 

Kazakhstan's President Qasym-Jomart Toqayev has declared a day of national mourning on Friday and expressed his "deep condolences" to relatives and said, "all those responsible will be severely punished in accordance with the law".

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