Wed, Dec 07, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Military plane crash kills 119 in Tehran

GROUND CASUALTIESThe plane plowed into an apartment building in a predominately military neighborhood; most on board were journalists

AP , TEHRAN

An Iranian military transport plane crashed into a 10-story apartment building as it was trying to make an emergency landing yesterday, smashing a hole in the top of the building and setting it ablaze. At least 119 people were killed.

All 94 people on the plane were killed, most of them Iranian journalists heading to cover military maneuvers in the south. Twenty five residents of the apartment building also died, and 90 were injured, Tehran state radio said.

A large gash was torn in the top floor of the 10-story building. Flames leaped out of windows from the roof and several other floors as panicked residents fled the Towhid residential complex, a series of high-rise apartment buildings for army personnel in the Azadi suburb of Tehran.

Wreckage rained down, hitting a nearby gas station, police said. Cars parked below were smashed by falling debris.

At the foot of the blackened building, what appeared to be a pile of wreckage was in flames.

Firefighters managed to put out the fire in the building, which was damaged and charred but still standing. Police cordoned off the air, preventing journalists and a crowd of thousands of people from nearing the site. Many in the crowd were screaming, afraid their relatives had been killed.

"It was like an earthquake," said Reza Sadeqi, a 25-year-old merchant, who saw the plane hit the building. "The force of the crash threw me about 3 meters inside my shop."

"I felt the heat of the fire caused by the crash. It was like being in hell," he said.

The C-130 aircraft had just taken off from the nearby Mehrabad airport en route to Bandar Abbas, a port city in southern Iran. It experienced a technical problem and was returning the Mehrabad for an emergency landing when it hit the building, state-run television said.

The plane, which belonged to the army air force, carried 84 passengers and 10 crew members, Iranian television reported. All aboard were killed, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, told reporters.

In April, an Iranian airlines Boeing 707 with 157 people aboard skidded off a runway at Tehran airport and caught fire, killing three people. Last year, a Ukrainian-built aircraft carrying aerospace scientists crashed in central Iran, killing all 44 people aboard.

In 2003, a Russian-made Ilyushin-76 carrying members of the elite Revolutionary Guards crashed in the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people. And in 1988, an Iran Air A300 Airbus was shot down by USS Vincennes over the Persian Gulf, killing 290.

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