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Cuba: Many feared dead as plane crashes in Havana on takeoff with 104 passengers on board

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A Cuban state airways plane with 104 passergers on board crashed on take off from Havana's Jose Marti International airport. Cuban state media said the jet involved in the crash was a Blue Panorama Airlines Boeing 737 - this aircraft was leased by Cubana.

Cuba: Plane crashes in Havana on takeoff with 104 passengers on board

State television and websites said the plane was headed to the eastern city of Holguin and crashed between the airport in southern Havana and the nearby town of Santiago de las Vegas.

The plane was almost completely destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire. Firefighters, some still hosing down the burnt fuselage, and rescue workers combed through the wreckage, but there seemed little chance of finding survivors.

The plane was rented by Cubana, which has taken many of its aging planes out of service in recent months due to mechanical problems.

Cuba's President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who went to visit the scene, said there was a "high number" of casualties.

The 58-year-old president, who succeeded Raul Castro as the island's leader only last month, appeared aghast as he surveyed the recovery efforts, wearing a short sleeved green shirt and surrounded by officials.

The last major airline crash in Cuba was in July 1997, when an Antonov-24 passenger plane fell into the sea off Santiago de Cuba. All 44 aboard were killed, including two Brazilians and two Spaniards. In March 2002, a small Antonov-2 plane travelling from Cienfuegos to Cayo Coco crashed in the central province of Santa Clara. All 16 people aboard, among them six Canadian tourists, four Britons and two Germans.

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