Palaiochori: An Antonov cargo plane operated by a Ukrainian airline has crashed near the city of Kavala in northern Greece with residents reporting seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the incident.
Drone footage shows that small fragments are all that remain from the plane that Greek Civil Aviation authorities said was heading from Serbia to Jordan on Saturday. The An-12, a Soviet-built turboprop aircraft, was operated by cargo carrier Meridian.
The debris of an Antonov cargo plane in northern Greece.Credit:AP
Greek media reported there were eight people on the plane and that it was carrying 12 tons of “dangerous materials,” mostly explosives. But local officials said they had no specific information on the cargo and provided varying numbers of people on board.
Experts were poised to search the site of the crash on Sunday evening to determine what kind of cargo it carried.
It crashed in fields between two villages and dragged a small distance on the ground and a plume of white smoke was still rising from the front end of the plane on Sunday.
Firefighters who rushed to the scene were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell that they feared might be toxic. Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, to not leave their homes and to wear masks. Authorities say they do not know if there were dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those contained in batteries.
Flames are seen at the site of a plane crash, a few miles away from the city of Kavala, in northern Greece, Credit:AP
The teams of explosives experts which will soon operate onsite will be joined by experts from Greece’s Atomic Energy Commission. The fire service has cordoned off the area at a radius of about 400 meters.
Greece’s civil aviation authority said the pilot managed to alert authorities about a problem in one of the plane’s engines and he was given the choice of landing in either the Thessaloniki or Kavala airports. He opted for Kavala, which was closer, saying that he had to make an emergency landing.
Communication with the plane ceased almost immediately afterwards. The plane crashed about 40 kilometers west of the airport.
“We were hearing explosions until a few minutes ago,” Filippos Anastassiadis, mayor of the municipality of Paggaio, told the Associated Press a little over an hour after the accident. “I am about 300 meters from the site of the crash.”
One of Anastassiadis’ deputies told state broadcaster ERT that explosions were heard for two hours following the crash.
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