Passenger plane crashes near Kazakh city of Almaty

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Emergencies Ministry vehicles and ambulances are parked near the site of the plane crash outside Almaty January 29, 2013.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Rescue teams are at the crash site just outside the commercial capital, Almaty

A passenger plane has crashed near Kazakhstan's commercial capital, Almaty, killing at least 20 people, officials say.

The CRJ-200 aircraft was travelling from the northern town of Kokshetau.

Kazakhstan's Scat airlines said it believed everyone on board died when it crashed in heavy fog at 13:00 (07:00 GMT) on approach to Almaty's airport.

Last month, a military plane carrying top Kazakh security officials crashed, killing all 27 people on board.

"According to preliminary information there are no survivors," Scat said on Tuesday in a statement quoted by the Interfax news agency.

The airline has said that that 20 people - 15 passengers and five crew members - were on board the Canadian-built Bombardier aircraft, though other reports suggest that up to 22 people might have been.

Poor visibility

Kazakhstan's President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, extended his condolences to the relatives of those killed in the crash. A government commission has been set up to investigate the cause.

Details about the crash are still emerging but it was a very foggy day and visibility was poor, reports the BBC's Abdujalil Abdurasulov from Almaty.

"There was no fire, no explosion. The plane just plunged to the earth," Yuri Ilyin, deputy head of Almaty's emergencies department, told the Reuters news agency.

An emergency team is working at the crash site, near the village of Kyzyl Tu.

The authorities will soon announce if weather conditions or other factors were to blame for the crash, our correspondent says.

However, Almaty's deputy mayor, Maulen Mukashev, visited the crash site and was quoted by the Reuters news agency as saying: "The preliminary cause of the accident is bad weather.

"Not a single part of the plane was left intact after it came down."

Established in 1997, Scat airlines is based in Kazakhstan with its main base at Shymkent airport. It operates extensive domestic services as well as some international flights.