12 People Killed in Plane Crash in Kazakhstan

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) -
Emergency and security personnel are seen at the site of the plane crash near Almaty, Kazakhstan, Friday. (Emergency Committee of Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan/Handout via Reuters)

A Kazakhstan plane with 98 people aboard crashed shortly after takeoff early Friday, killing at least 12 people, while 49 were hospitalized with injuries, Kazakh officials said.

The Bek Air aircraft hit a concrete fence and a two-story building after takeoff from Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital. It lost attitude at 7:22 a.m. (local time), the Almaty International Airport said.

Local authorities had earlier put the death toll at 15, but the Interior Ministry of the Central Asian nation later revised the figure downward, without explaining.

In a statement on its social media page, the airport said there was no fire and a rescue operation got underway immediately following the crash.

Around 1,000 people were working at the snow-covered site of the crash. The weather in Almaty was clear, with mild sub-freezing temperatures common at this time of the year.

Footage showed the front of the broken-up fuselage rammed against a building and the rear of the plane lying in the field next to the airport.

The plane was flying to Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital formerly known as Astana.

The aircraft was identified as a Fokker-100, a medium-sized, twin-turbofan jet airliner. It was reported to be 23 years old and most recently certified to operate in May. The company manufacturing the aircraft went bankrupt in 1996 and the production of the Fokker-100 stopped the following year.

All Bek Air and Fokker-100 flights in Kazakhstan have been suspended pending investigation of the crash, the country’s authorities said.

Kazakhstan’s air safety record is far from spotless. In 2009 all Kazakh airlines — with the exception of the flagship carrier Air Astana — were banned from operating in the European Union because they didn’t meet international safety standards. The ban was lifted only in 2016.