Kazakhstan plane crash: Bek Air plane comes down near Almaty airport

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Media caption,

"The front end started vibrating", survivor Aslan Nazaraliyev told the BBC's Sarah Rainsford

A passenger jet has crashed in Kazakhstan, killing at least 12 people but leaving dozens of survivors.

The Bek Air plane was flying from Almaty - Kazakhstan's largest city - to the capital Nur-Sultan when it smashed into a building just after take-off.

The Fokker 100 aircraft had 93 passengers and five crew members on board. Survivors described walking from the wreckage into the dark and snow.

Dozens are being treated in hospital. The cause of the crash is unclear.

A Reuters news agency reporter close to the scene said there was heavy fog at the time.

The interior ministry initially said 15 people had been killed, but it later revised the number of victims down to 12.

Kazakhstan's aviation committee has suspended all Bek Air flights as well as those involving Fokker 100 aircraft pending the results of the investigation.

What's known about the crash?

The Flightradar24 information website said the flight departed at 07:21 (01:21 GMT), and "the last signal was received in that same minute".

The airport said the plane lost height at 07:22 before striking a concrete barrier and crashing into a two-storey building. There was no fire upon impact.

Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar said the plane's tail had scraped the runway twice during take-off, leaving marks.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The plane crashed into a two-storey building, which was partly destroyed
Image source, EPA

One survivor, businessman Aslan Nazaraliyev, told the BBC that the plane had begun vibrating violently. People screamed and the aircraft smashed into the ground.

He said part of the plane was crushed like "an aluminium can". He and others managed to get out and helped fellow passengers to safety.

"It was ugly. It was dark. We were lighting with cell phone lights," Mr Nazaraliyev said.

Another told news website Tengrinews she heard a "terrifying sound" before the plane started losing altitude.

"The plane was flying at a tilt. Everything was like in a movie: screaming, shouting, people crying," she said.

What of the victims?

Mr Sklyar said that most of the passengers who died or suffered serious injuries were in the front part of the plane.

Eight people died at the scene, two while being treated at the airport and two in hospital, AFP news agency reports.

Some 67 people were injured in the accident, nine of them children, the health ministry said. Forty-nine were still in hospital on Friday evening, of whom eight people were said to be in a critical condition.

Most of those on board were Kazakh citizens although Chinese, Kyrgyz and Ukrainian nationals were reportedly among the injured.

The captain has been confirmed as one of the fatalities.

The editor of the Informburo.kz website said one of its journalists, 35-year-old Dana Kruglova, was killed while flying to see her parents for New Year.

What's been the reaction?

A special commission will be set up to determine the cause of the crash.

Kazakhstan's President Qasym-Jomart Toqayev has declared a day of national mourning on Friday.

He expressed his "deep condolences" to relatives and said "all those responsible will be severely punished in accordance with the law".

He also ordered an audit of all Kazakh airlines.

Bek Air also expressed its condolences and said it was doing everything it could to clarify what happened.

Almaty's airport said it was operating normally and the flight schedule was unaffected.

What are the odds of surviving a plane crash?

A survey of crashes in the US between 1983 and 2000 found that 95% of aircraft occupants survived accidents, including 55% in the most serious incidents.

Flying remains the safest way to travel. Your chances of being in a crash in the first place are vanishingly small.

In 2018 - an average year in terms of aircraft accidents - 514 people died worldwide in crashes involving commercial flights, from a total of more than four billion passengers.

What is known about Bek Air?

It was founded in 1999, initially targeting VIP flight operations, the company's website says.

Nowadays, the company describes itself as Kazakhstan's first low-cost airline.

Its fleet is made up of seven Fokker 100 aircraft. The aircraft in this crash received its most recent flight certificate in May.

The Fokker 100 in detail

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A Bek Air flight leaving Kazakhstan's capital in 2018 (file picture)
  • Medium-sized twin-turbofan airliner, designed mainly for short-range flights
  • First flight in 1986 - 283 jets built in total
  • Production terminated in 1997 after Fokker, a Dutch manufacturer, went bankrupt
  • Maintenance division taken over by other aircraft services firms
  • Has been involved in two other serious crashes. A Palair Macedonian Airlines flight crashed after takeo-ff from Skopje, North Macedonia, in 1993, killing 83 of the 97 people on board. All 99 people on board a TAM flight died in a crash near São Paulo, Brazil, in 1996. Four others died on the ground.

This is not the first serious plane crash in the city.

On 29 January 2013, a passenger plane travelling from the northern town of Kokshetau came down near Almaty, killing 20 people.

A month earlier, 27 people died when a military plane carrying senior Kazakh security officials crashed in the south of the country.