A Cuban airliner with 104 passengers on board plummeted into a yuca field just after takeoff from Havana’s international airport on Friday. THE PLANE CRASH IN CUBA , KILLS OVER 100 PEOPLE
Officials said the plane was headed to the eastern city of Holguin when it crashed a short distance from the end of the runway on the southern outskirts of Havana. Witnesses said they saw a thick column of smoke near the airport.
“A column of black smoke rose up in the sky,” resident Ana Gonzalez told Reuters news agency.
The plane lay in a field of yuca-root plants and appeared heavily damaged and burnt. Firefighters were trying to extinguish its smoldering remains. Government officials including President Miguel Diaz-Canel rushed to the site, along with a large number of emergency medical workers. Residents of the rural area said they had seen some survivors being taken away in ambulances.
Relatives of passengers rushed to the scene, among them a man who said that his wife and niece had been on board. He declined to provide his full name before he was taken to an airline terminal where relatives were being asked to gather.
A military officer who declined to provide his name to reporters said that there appeared to have been only three survivors in critical condition, but other officials declined to confirm that figure.
The plane was rented by Cubana, which has taken many of its aging planes out of service in recent months due to mechanical problems. Cuba’s First Vice-President, Salvador Valdes Mesa, met Thursday with Cubana officials to discuss improvements in its heavily criticized service. The airline is notorious among Cubans for its frequent delays and cancellations, which Cubana blames on a lack of parts and airplanes due to the U.S. trade embargo on the island.
The crash Friday was Cuba’s third major fatal accident since 2010.