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All 62 aboard die as airliner crashes in Russia

All 62 aboard die as airliner crashes in Russia

ROSTOV-ON-DON: A Boeing passenger jet operated by the flydubai budget airline crashed in southern Russia early on Saturday, killing all 62 people on board as it tried to land in bad weather, officials said.

The Boeing 737, which flew from Dubai to the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, was reportedly making its second attempt to land after circling for several hours.

It missed the runway and erupted in a huge fireball as it crashed, leaving debris scattered across a wide area.

“My whole house shook. I looked out into the yard and the sky was all red — it was a shade of red that I have never seen,” eyewitness Yana, who lives near the airport, said.

Russia’s Investigative Committee confirmed that all 55 passengers and seven crewmembers on board were killed. It launched a probe into whether technical problems, pilot error, poor weather or a combination of problems were behind the crash.

Flydubai chairman Ghaith al-Ghaith expressed “devastation” over the disaster and sought to head off any “speculation” that the crash might be the result of terrorism.

“We do not yet know all the details of the incident but we are working closely with the authorities to establish precisely what happened,” Mr Ghaith said in statement.

A no-frills budget carrier which is a sister firm to Emirates Airlines, flydubai is government-owned and was set up in March 2008.

The passengers on board flight FZ981 included 44 Russian nationals, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one Uzbek, the airline said. They comprised 33 women, 18 men and four children.

The company said the Cypriot pilot and Spanish co-pilot each had nearly 6,000 hours of flying experience. The five other crewmembers were from Spain, Russia, the Seychelles, Colombia and Kyrgyzstan.

Inside the international terminal at Rostov-on-Don airport, local residents laid flowers in front of a list of the victims, as shocked relatives tried to digest the news.

“I turned on the news and for some reason thought it was a terrorist attack but it turned out to have been here right at the airport,” said bereaved relative Alexander Chistyakov.

“My brother was fifteen years older than me. He was a successful surgeon in the local hospital. It is such a loss.” Footage aired on local media showed a huge fireball engulfing a wide area after the plane came down. The authorities took more than an hour to get the blaze under control, the emergencies ministry said.

State media later showed pictures of rescue workers combing through scattered debris in the driving snow, with the emergencies ministry saying over 850 rescuers and 170 vehicles had been deployed.

Investigators said the plane’s two black boxes had been recovered.

The plane had “skimmed the ground and broke into several pieces”, according to the investigators, with fragments of the Boeing 737 reportedly scattered up to 1.5 kilometres from the crash site.

A strong wind warning was in place and it was raining hard at the time of the crash.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the families of the victims after being briefed on the crash by his transport and emergency situations ministers, the Kremlin said.

Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2016

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