A Boeing 737 plane crashed moments after taking off from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, killing over 100 of its 113 passengers and crew barely 24 hours after more than a third of its fleet were grounded over safety concerns.
Cuba’s newly sworn in president Miguel Diaz-Canel confirmed there was a ‘high number of casualties’ after the internal Cubana de Aviacion flight crashed into a yuca field near a high school, in the Santiago de las Vegas neighborhood, on Friday. Just three survivors have been recovered so far – all in critical condition, according to Cuban media.
Photos of the scene show fire crews attempting to put out the still smoking wreckage of the aircraft which was devastated in the crash. Debris was left scattered across the surrounding area after the explosion.
Hospitals in the capital, including the General Calixto García University Hospital, are bracing themselves for the arrival of the survivors, Cuban state media Granma reports. Flight DMJ 0972, which was headed for the city of Holguin, in eastern Cuba, was carrying 104 passengers and nine crew when it crashed at 12.08pm local time.
The cause of the crash is not clear but witnesses at the airport terminal reported seeing a huge fireball followed by a giant plume of smoke rising in the distance. Diaz-Canel arrived at the scene shortly after the crash. ‘The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims,’ he told AFP.
Cuba’s national airline, Cubana de Aviacion, has been plagued with safety issues in recent years due to its aging fleet and only yesterday, more than a third of its fleet were officially grounded. The company which has a fleet of 16 with an average age of almost ten years old received an order from the Cuban National Aviation Authority to ground its six An-158 aircraft due to ‘serious’ technical and safety issues including cracks and mechanical issues, according to Airline Geeks.