Saturday , March 2 2024

Russian military jet crashes in southwest, at least six dead

A Russian military plane crashed on Monday into a residential area of Yeysk, a town in southwest Russia near the border with Ukraine, causing a huge fire and killing at least six people, according to Russian authorities.

“Six people died, 19 injured including two children,” a spokesman for the ministry of emergency situations said giving an updated toll late Monday.

The resulting fire that engulfed a nine-story residential building had been contained and was almost extinguished, regional governor Veniamin Kondratyev, who was on the scene Monday night, said on Telegram.

Oksana, a resident who declined to give her last name, said the area had been cordoned off.

“There could be an explosion. Everything is burning inside. There is smoke,” she told AFP.

She said she was stuck in traffic when she heard the news.

“I’m in shock obviously. My child was alone at home. We already used to go to sleep with fear every day — Mariupol is just across from us,” she said, referring to the nearby Ukrainian port besieged earlier this year by Russian forces.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed of the fire and ordered “all necessary assistance be given to casualties from the military plane incident,” the Kremlin told the state-run news agency TASS.

Residence block engulfed by flames

“On October 17, 2022, while taking off to carry out a training flight from the military airfield of the Southern Military District, an Su-34 aircraft crashed,” the Russian defense ministry said.

Its statement said the military jet had malfunctioned after “one of its engines caught fire during take-off”.

“At the site of the Sukhoi Su-34 crash, in the courtyard of a residential area, the aircraft’s fuel caught fire,” the ministry said.

Images on social media showed a Soviet-era residence block engulfed by flames.

The blaze reached five out of nine floors of a residential building, according to emergency services, quoted by Russian state-run agencies.

The blaze spread over 2,000 square meters (21,500 square feet), the services added.

Around 600 people usually reside in the building, the local Krasnodar administration said on Telegram.

“The governor ordered the whereabouts of each resident to be established,” the administration said.

Governor Kondratyev told reporters his administration was “providing maximum assistance” to residents and promised to “figure out whether the house would be restored, or we will build new apartments.”

Kondratyev earlier said on Telegram that the fire had spread to a few floors and that 17 flats were affected.

Investigation opened

Russia’s investigative committee, which looks into serious crimes, said it had opened a criminal investigation into the crash.

Since the beginning of the Ukraine offensive, airspace around the south of Russia has been closed.

Yeysk town is on the Taganrog Gulf on the Sea of Azov, opposite Mariupol, which is under Russian control. The town is home to about 85,000 people.

Mariupol withstood weeks of relentless Russian bombardment, with resistance concentrated in a dense network of underground tunnels at its Azovstal steel plant.

Accidents involving Russian civilian aircraft and warplanes are fairly common, usually caused by technical malfunction or human error.

In June a military plane crashed in the city of Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, killing four people and injuring five others.

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