At least 62 passengers and crew have died after a FlyDubai plane crashed during an attempted landing in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Russian officials said.
A Russian investigative committee confirmed in a statement that all 62 people on board the plane, travelling from Dubai, were killed in the crash on Saturday morning.
“The aircraft hit the ground and broke into pieces,” the Committee said in a statement on its website. “According to preliminary data, there were 55 passengers aboard and 7 crew members. They all died.”
In a statement published on Twitter, the Dubai Media Office said 44 of the passengers were Russian, eight were Ukrainian, two were Indian and one was from Uzbekistan.
The plane was believed to be a Boeing 737 operated by Emirati airline FlyDubai, a budget airline with a new fleet of planes that started flying in mid-2009.
State news agency Tass reported that the government’s leading investigative committee said preliminary information indicated the plane was landing when it hit the ground and broke into pieces at the airport about 950km (600 miles) south of Moscow.
Footage shown on local media showed a huge fireball erupting from the crash site. The authorities took more than an hour to get the blaze under control, the emergencies ministry said. More than 500 rescuers and 60 vehicles were dispatched to the crash site.
There was no immediate information on the cause, although some news reports suggested weather could have been a factor. Tass said weather data from the area indicated that winds were anywhere from 14 to 22 metres per second (30-50 mph) at the time of the crash and that there was light rain.
Boeing said it was aware of the incident: “We’re aware of reports coming out of Russia and our team is currently gathering more details,” the plane manufacturer said on Twitter.
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, told Associated Press that the plane initially tried to land at Rostov-on-Don then entered a holding pattern and tried to land again before contact was lost.
Government-owned FlyDubai, a no-frills sister airlines to Emirates, was established in March 2008.
The airline had a strong safety record, but one of its planes was hit by a bullet as it landed in Baghdad airport in January 2015, prompting multiple airlines to suspend flights to the Iraqi capital. No one was hurt.
The last major aviation disaster involving Russia was on 31 October when a Russian airliner blew up in the air over Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, killing all 224 aboard. Investigators determined it was destroyed by a bomb onboard. Russian news reports said most of those aboard were Russian tourists but there were unspecified foreign passengers as well.