At least 45 people were killed and dozens injured in the crash of a military aircraft carrying troops, which crashed and caught fire after missing the airstrip in the southern Philippines, on Sunday, according to reports. authorities.
Around 100 people, mostly young army graduates, were on board this C-130 transport plane, which crashed at midday on the island of Jolo, in the province of Sulu.
Some soldiers jumped from the flaming aircraft before it crashed to the ground and exploded, said Major General William Gonzales, commander of the Sulu Joint Task Force.
It is one of the most serious plane crashes in the country.
“It is a sad day, but we must remain hopeful,” responded Major General Gonzales in a statement. “We call on the nation to pray for those injured and those who perished in this tragedy.”
Among the dead are 42 soldiers and three civilians, according to the Philippine army, which said that 49 soldiers and four wounded soldiers were hospitalized.
Five members of the armed forces are still missing.
The chief of the armed forces, General Cirilito Sobejana, explained that the plane, which was carrying soldiers from Cagayan de Oro, on the southern island of Mindanao, missed the airstrip as it tried to land .
The device then tried to “regain power but that was not successful,” he added.
This is an accident and not an attack, insisted the spokesman for the armed forces, General Edgard Arevalo, on DZBB radio.
Air Force spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Maynard Mariano announced the opening of an investigation to determine the causes of the accident.
Photos from the crash site, released by Joint Task Force Sulu, show the damaged tail of the aircraft and smoldering debris from the rear section of the fuselage near coconut palms.
Photos taken by the Philippine channel Pondohan TV and posted on its Facebook page show the wreckage of the plane which was destroyed by the flames. A thick plume of black smoke rises above the houses located not far from the site of the accident.
The plane crashed near a quarry in a sparsely populated area, Lieutenant Jerrica Angela Manongdo told AFP, adding that late Sunday afternoon relief operations were over.
Device broken in two
A high school student, Almar Hajiri Aki, told AFP he was standing on the side of a road when he heard a “loud explosion” behind him.
“I thought our house had been hit,” said the 21-year-old, who rushed with his neighbors to help lift the soldiers from the rubble.
According to the first elements, the plane passed the airstrip and broke in two, Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, head of the Mindanao Island West Command, told AFP.
Most of the passengers had recently received initial military training and had been sent to the island as part of a joint counterterrorism task force in the predominantly Muslim region.
The army is very present in the southern Philippines due to the activities of the Islamist group Abou Sayyaf, considered a terrorist organization by Washington.
Bloody terrorist attacks and kidnappings of foreign tourists and Christian missionaries are attributed to this organization.
Senator Richard Gordon pointed out that this accident is the fourth this year to have resulted in a “heavy toll”. “Do we buy badly damaged devices with people’s money?” He asked on Twitter.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque called the accident “very unfortunate”, and US Embassy charge d’affaires John Law offered his “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims.
The crash comes after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in June during an overnight training flight, killing all six people on board.
Three pilots and three airmen had died when their S70-i crashed near the Crow Valley training ground, north of Manila, resulting in the entire fleet being brought to a standstill.