Cuba began two days of national mourning Saturday for victims of the crash of a state airways plane that killed all but three of its 110 passengers and crew.President Miguel Diaz-Canel said an investigation was under way into Friday’s crash of the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased to the national carrier Cubana de Aviacion by a Mexican company.
Three women pulled alive from the mangled wreckage are the only known survivors.The 110 people aboard included six Mexican crew, said the Mexico-based company that leased the plane, Global Air, also known as Aerolineas Damojh. Two victims were Argentine, the country’s foreign ministry said. Most of the others were Cuban, according to state media.
The plane – carrying 104 passengers – was almost completely destroyed in the crash and subsequent fire. Firefighters raced to the scene along with a fleet of ambulances to put out the blaze, as emergency personnel combed through the wreckage.What appeared to be one of the wings of the plane was wedged among scorched tree trunks, but the main fuselage was almost entirely destroyed.
Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who visited the scene, said an investigation has been opened into the disaster, and that its findings would be made public as soon as possible. A press conference was scheduled on Saturday.The 58-year-old president, who succeeded Raul Castro as the communist island’s leader only last month, appeared aghast as he surveyed the recovery efforts, wearing a short-sleeved green shirt and surrounded by officials.He said an investigation into the cause of the accident was underway.
Raul Castro sent condolences to families of the victims of the “catastrophic accident,” a statement read, as Russian President Vladimir Putin and a string of Latin American leaders also expressed sympathy.Airport sources said the plane took off at 12:08 pm (1608 GMT) heading for the eastern city of Holguin, 670 kilometers (415 miles) away.From the supermarket where he works near the airport, Jose Luis, 49, said he could see the plane taking off before it banked and plunged to the ground.
“I saw it taking off. All of a sudden, it made a turn, and went down. We were all amazed,” he said.Yasniel Diaz, a 21-year-old musician, said the pilot appeared to attempt an emergency landing, but crashed instead.”The explosion shook everything,” he said.”I started running, I was so afraid.”Images from Cuban television showed rescue workers at the scene removing what appeared to be a survivor on a stretcher as rain began to fall.
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