Havana, Cuba: Cubana Airlines Boeing 737, Flight CU972, with more than 100 passengers has crashed soon after takeoff at 12:08 local time from José Martí International Airport in Havana – smashing into an area of agricultural land near the airport. It was bound for Holguin, a domestic flight of about one hour and 20 minutes. According to state media, the jet was leased by Cuba’s national airline, Cubana de Aviación, and flown by a foreign crew.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who arrived at the scene, has said that there are “a high number of victims” . Three survivors of the accident were taken to hospital in a critical condition, where one reportedly died from severe burns and trauma.
In a statement later, the president said an investigation into the cause of the accident was underway.
“The bodies are being identified. The ministry of transport has set up a commission to investigate the facts. We will gather all the relevant information and we will communicate that to the people as soon as we will get it,” he said.
There was no other official mention of survivors from the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion.
The 110 aboard included six Mexican crew, said Aerolineas Damojh, the Mexican-based company that leased the plane to the Cuban carrier.
The plane, carrying 104 passengers, was almost completely destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire, which was put out by firefighters who raced to the scene along with a fleet of ambulances.
Emergency personnel combed through the wreckage, lending little hope that there could be other survivors.
The first photos and video footage of rescue efforts showed workers combing through the wreckage of the plane, which appears to include a detached and deformed tail.
In a picture supposedly taken from inside the airport moments after the crash, a plume of black smoke can be seen rising from the end of a runway, as firefighters responded to the incident.
In 2017, a Cuban military aircraft crashed in the province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on board. The last tragedy involving a passenger aircraft occurred in the country back in 2010, when 68 people died after an AeroCaribbean flight from Santiago to Havana crashed in central Cuba in bad weather.
There had been no crashes involving Cuban airlines flights since 1989, the year a plane flying from Havana to Milan, Italy, went down shortly after takeoff. All 126 people on board were killed and 24 others on the ground also lost their lives.