Il-76 Plane Explodes in Midair Over The Far East
Up to 18 people were feared dead Sunday after an Il-76 cargo jet apparently exploded in midair as it tried to make an emergency landing, a senior Emergency Situations Ministry official said.
The military plane came down near the city of Okhotsk in the far eastern Khabarovsk region shortly after the captain told air traffic control he was making an emergency landing due to an onboard fire.
The cause of the blaze was not immediately clear.
``According to our information from the Okhotsk region, the plane exploded in midair. People heard the sound of two explosions and saw flashes,`` Valery Sukhoborov, deputy chief of the Emergency Situations Ministry`s far eastern region, told TV6 television.
The Il-76 was en route from Bratsk in the Krasnoyarsk region to Anadyr, Chukotka, the Federal Border Guards Service said. It was carrying more than 30 tons of cargo, including food, construction materials and an engine.
The people on board included a crew of eight, led by flight commander Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Dmitrenko, and 10 cargo handlers, the border guards service said.
``Of course there was no chance of [those on board] surviving, as people heard two explosions in midair,`` the Emergency Situations Ministry duty officer in Khabarovsk said.
Some of the wreckage was still on fire when discovered by rescue officials, he said.
The jet had broken up into three large parts, its cargo of food and spare parts scattered over a wide area, other officials said.
Rescue work was suspended until daylight.
A border guards service spokesman said the plane was flying at an altitude of 9,600 meters when the crew reported the fire at about 6 a.m. Moscow time. Radio contact was lost after the plane dropped to 7,500 meters.
The spokesman would not comment on the technical state of the aircraft.
The crash was the latest in a spate of accidents involving Russian aircraft. On Saturday, 18 servicemen were injured when their Mi-26 helicopter plunged more than 1,000 meters back to earth following an engine failure.
Two weeks ago an aging Il-18 aircraft crashed in the Tver region, killing 27 people. That incident came barely two weeks after a military helicopter plowed into a radio mast, killing five servicemen.
In July, a Tu-154 passenger jet plowed into a Siberian forest, killing all 145 passengers and crew, a disaster that prompted President Vladimir Putin to order the government to step up air safety.
A week later an Il-76 belonging to private cargo air carrier Rus crashed shortly after takeoff from a military airport outside Moscow, killing 10 people on board.
Aviation experts say the vast majority of Russia`s civil aviation fleet was built well before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Few of the 240 or so operators have the money to purchase new planes or overhaul old ones and lax monitoring lets them continue to fly planes long after it is safe to do so.
The Il-76, a cargo workhorse, first entered service in 1973 and as many as 200 of them are currently operating in Russia.
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