Military Plane Crash Is Algeria’s Worst Aviation Disaster
Military Plan Crash
A hulking military transport plane crashed just after take-off Wednesday in the worst aviation disaster in Algeria’s history, killing 257 people and plunging a nation where soldiers are especially esteemed into mourning.
An investigation was immediately ordered to determine the cause of the crash that killed soldiers, their family members and a group of 30 people returning from hospital stays in the capital to refugee camps in the south.
The huge plane, a Russian Il-76, crashed about 8 a.m. “just after leaving the tarmac” of the military airport in Boufarik, 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Algiers, Maj. Gen. Boualem Madhi told the public TV station Canal Algerie. It crashed into a field just outside the base and was devoured by flames, killing 247 passengers and 10 crew members, the Defense Ministry said.
Video on the state-TV channel ENTV showed a blackened hulk broken into pieces, with huge wheels scattered about along with other plane parts. Firefighters doused the flames while body bags were placed in rows in the field.
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika ordered three days of mourning starting immediately and prayers for the dead on Friday at mosques across the country.
In the south, the Algerian-backed Polisario Front seeking independence for Western Sahara ordered a week of mourning for the 30 dead Sahrawi people from its refugee camps in Tindouf, a statement from the group said.
The flight was headed to Tindouf then Bechar, in the southwest, site of a military base, according to Farouk Achour, spokesman for Algeria’s civil protection services. Tindouf is home to many refugees from the neighboring Western Sahara, a disputed territory annexed by Morocco.
There was no official mention of survivors, but one witness reported seeing some people jump out of the aircraft before it crashed. The Araban-language Algerian TV Dzair said five people were in a critical state but it was unclear if they had been inside the plane. Several witnesses told Algerian TV network Ennahar they saw flames coming out of one of the planes’ engines just before it took off.
“The plane started to rise before falling,” an unidentified man lying on what seemed to be a hospital bed told Ennahar TV. “The plane crashed on its wing first and caught fire.”