Havana: A Cuban state airways plane with 110 passengers and crew on board crashed shortly after taking off from Havana, killing all but three people on board in a mass of twisted and smoldering fuselage.
Cuban state media reported that three women had been pulled alive from the mangled wreckage and were in critical condition in hospital.
They were the only known survivors from the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, operated by Cubana de Aviacion. It crashed into a field close to a wooded area near Jose Marti airport, sending a thick column of acrid smoke into the air.
The 110 people aboard included six Mexican crew, said the Mexico-based company that leased the plane, Global Air, also known as Aerolineas Damojh.
Two victims were Argentine, the country’s foreign ministry said. Most of the others were Cuban, according to state media.
The plane — carrying 104 passengers — was almost completely destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire. Firefighters raced to the scene along with a fleet of ambulances to put out the blaze, as emergency personnel combed through the wreckage.
What appeared to be one of the wings of the plane was wedged among scorched tree trunks, but the main fuselage was almost entirely destroyed.
Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited the scene, said an investigation has been opened into the disaster, and that its findings would be made public as soon as possible. A press conference was scheduled for 1900 GMT on Saturday.
The 58-year-old president, who succeeded Raul Castro as the communist island’s leader only last month, appeared aghast as he surveyed the recovery efforts, wearing a short-sleeved green shirt and surrounded by officials.
He said an investigation into the cause of the accident was underway.
Cuba declared two days of national mourning. (AFP)