At least 70 killed in air crash in Kyrgyzstan

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Moscow, Aug 24 (UNI) A Kyrgyz passenger plane, bound for Mashhad in north-eastern Iran, crashed today near Manas international airport, 30 km from Bishkek, the capital of former Soviet republic Kyrgyzstan, killing at least 70 people, Russian RIA Novosti news agency reported quoting Kyrgys Emergencies Minister.

The crash occurred when the crew reported a technical malfunction soon after take-off of the Boeing-737 and was returning to Manas. It crashed and caught fire, two kilometers away from Manas.

Reports said only about 20 people survived in the crash.

There were 83 passengers on board the plane, including Kyrgyzstan's national basketball youth team and seven crewmembers, RIA said.

However, there was confusion over the number of people on board, with reports ranging from 83 to 123.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov said the plane's captain was one of the survivors, who are being currently rushed to Bishkek's hospitals.

Kyrgyz authorities said decompression of the plane, flight control system or engine failure are among causes of the crash.

The plane belonged to Itek Air, a Kyrgyz company, but was operated by Iran Aseman Airlines.

Itek Air is on a list of airlines banned from EU airspace because of fears over safety standards.

Officials from a nearby US base said they were trying to help with the rescue effort.

''At the moment rescue teams, fire brigades and medics are rushing to the crash site,'' a spokeswoman for the US air base located in Manas said RIA news agency reported.

Yelena Bayalinova, spokeswoman for the Kyrgyz Health Ministry, told the Interfax news agency that many victims of the crash had suffered burns, and that some were in critical condition.


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