Between 55 and 70 killed in Iran plane crash (Second Lead)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

TEHRAN - The initial optimism by the Iranian transportation and health ministry about a low death toll faded Sunday after reports that between 55 and 70 people died in a a plane crash or emergency landing near Orumieh in Azerbaijan province.

A Red Crescent official told official news agency IRNA that 70 people were killed and only 32 survived the crash in the Azerbaijan province in northwestern Iran. Heydar Heydari said that the death toll may increase beyond that, probably referring to the injured passengers.

Passenger numbers have been put at between 100 and 105 people.

A spokesman from the Azerbaijan coroner office confirmed that 70 bodies were transferred to the office and more could follow, the Fars news agency reported.

The governor’s office of Azerbaijan however put the death toll at 55, ISNA news agency reported.

The plane had departed from the capital Tehran and was headed to Orumieh in northwestern Iran.

Iran’s national state airline Iran Air said there were 106 people on board, but as one of the passengers was a baby and two others children, the reported numbers varied. There were 91 adult passengers with seats, two children, one baby and 12 crew members.

Red Crescent official Heydari also spoke of a crash while transportation deputy minister Ahmad Majidi had told Fars news agency that there was no crash, but that the plane, coming from the capital Tehran, made an emergency landing - for as yet unclear reasons - in a nearby village 10 minutes before reaching Orumieh airport.

First photos of the plane shown on the news network Khabar indicate a crash rather than an emergency landing.

According to local officials in the Azerbaijan province, the first villagers to notice the crash rushed to the site and freed some of the passengers, providing them with initial medical care.

Iran’s transportation minister had earlier Sunday voiced optimism that the death toll was low as the plane did not catch fire.

ISNA news agency quoted Hamid Behbahani as saying: “Thank god, the plane did not catch fire and therefore the death toll is expected to be lower than initially feared.”

Behbahani, who rushed to the crash site Sunday night, said the plane’s black box would need to be studied before more details could be made available. He also noted there would be interviews with survivors of the landing.

Aid teams from the Red Crescent have rushed to the site, but heavy snow has hampered the work of aid teams, the official said.

All hospitals in the provincial capital of Orumieh were prepared to take on those injured in the crash, officials have said.

According to ISNA, the plane was a Boeing 727 belonging to the national state-airline Iran Air. It has been speculated that the emergency landed was necessitated by bad weather and heavy fog.

Filed under: Accidents and Disasters

will not be displayed