At least 45 dead after Philippines military plane misses runway and crashes

·2-min read
 (Reuters)
(Reuters)

At least 45 people have died in a military plane crash in the southern Philippines after the aircraft missed the runway, military officials said.

The plane that had 96 people on board crashed into a coconut grove while landing at Patikul in the Sulu province, on Jolo Island, at around midday on Sunday. Some were able to jump off the aircraft before it burst into flames.

At least 49 people have been rescued from the burning wreckage of the Philippine Air Force's Lockheed C-130 transport aircraft, and are now being treated in hospital, defence minister Delfin Lorenzana said.

Of the 45 people killed in the crash, 42 were army soldiers on board and three were civilian villagers on the ground. It is one of the country’s worst recorded military air disasters.

Military chief of staff general Cirilito Sobejana said: "It's very unfortunate. The plane missed the runway and it was trying to regain power but failed and crashed."

A statement from the regional military force, Joint Task Force Sulu, said “a number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash”.

It was not immediately clear how many soldiers jumped and what condition they were in.

The people on board included three pilots, five other crew members, and troops from Cagayan de Oro city, Mr Sobejana said.

The Department of National Defence said 45 people had been killed, including three civilians on the ground. Fifty-three people were injured, including four civilians. Five soldiers remain unaccounted for.

Military spokesman Colonel Edgard Arevalo said there was no indication of any attack on the plane, and that a crash investigation had not yet begun as efforts were focused on rescue and treatment of passengers.

The airport in Sulu's main town of Jolo is located a few kilometres from a mountainous area where troops have battled the militant group Abu Sayyaf, of which some members have aligned themselves with Isis.

Many of those on board were new soldiers who had just undergone basic training, officials said.

An air force official told the Associated Press that the Jolo runway is shorter than most others in the country, making it more difficult for pilots to adjust if an aircraft misses the landing spot.

The official, who has flown military aircraft to and from Jolo several times, spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.

The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two ex-United States Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines as part of military assistance this year.

The Philippine air force has a history of disasters. In 1971, 40 military personnel died after one of its aircraft crashed in a rice field north of Manila. Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training mission, killing six people.

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