A Russian Boeing 737-500 airliner crashed near the Ural mountains on Sunday, killing all 88 people on board, officials said.
The plane, operated by Russia’s national airline Aeroflot and on an internal flight from Moscow, ploughed into wasteland while trying to land in the Siberian city of Perm.
Firefighters extinguished a blaze at the crash site but debris covered a section of Russia’s main east-west railway, forcing its closure, Russian media reported.
Investigators were flying from Moscow to try and establish what caused the crash but there was no suggestion of an attack or sabotage.
”There were 88 people on board, 82 passengers and six crew,” said Emergencies Ministry spokesperson Irina Andrianova.
”All of them died. There were no casualties on the ground.”
Andrianova said contact with the airliner was lost when it was at an altitude of 1 800m while descending to land.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev was briefed about the crash by Emergencies Minister Sergei Shoigu, news agencies quoted the Kremlin press service as saying.
The crash was the worst involving a Russian airliner since at least 170 people were killed in August 2006 when a Pulkovo Airlines TU-154 plane crashed in Ukraine on a flight from the Black Sea resort of Anapa to St Petersburg.
Aeroflot, a debt-ridden airline in the 1990s when it had a fleet of mainly Soviet-built planes, has transformed itself into an image conscious, profit-making company with global ambitions.
The last Aeroflot plane crash occurred in March 1994 in Siberia when 70 people were killed. Investigators blamed the pilot’s teenage son for accidentally switching off the autopilot.
Last month, at least 65 people were killed when a Boeing 737-200 crashed in Kyrgyzstan, a Central Asian country that was once part of the Soviet Union. – Reuters