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Kazakh Flight Crashes, Killing At Least 12 And Injuring 54

Police and rescuers work on the site of a plane crash near Almaty International Airport in Kazakhstan on Friday. A Bek Air flight crashed Friday shortly after takeoff, killing at least 12 people on board.
Emergency Situations Ministry of the Republic of Kazakhstan via AP

A plane crashed shortly after takeoff near Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Friday, killing at least 12 of the 98 people on board.

Kazakh officials say another 54 people were hospitalized with injuries, The Associated Press reports, 10 of them in critical condition. The captain was among those killed.

The plane was a Dutch-built Fokker 100 aircraft operated by Bek Air, which bills itself as Kazakhstan's first low-cost carrier. The manufacturer went bankrupt in 1996.

The aircraft struck a two-story house shortly after takeoff. The flight had been headed to Nur-Sultan, the capital city formerly known as Astana.

Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar told reporters that the plane's tail hit the runway twice during takeoff.

"A commission ... will establish whether this was pilot error or technical issues," Sklyar said, according to Reuters. "The runway was in an ideal condition." Officials say the crash did not cause a fire on the plane, a fact that likely saved lives.

A survivor of the crash described the terror aboard.

"At first the left wing jolted really hard, then the right. The plane continued to gain altitude, shaking quite severely, and then went down," Aslan Nazaraliyev told the AP.

Nazaraliyev told Reuters that he had been seated beside an emergency exit in the 15th row, and that all the rows in front of him were shorn off as the plane split in half.

"We got out through the emergency exit ... I and other men started getting people out and away from the plane. Some were trapped by concrete debris from the building. There were moans and screams and it was dark," he said.

Bek Air flies to 10 cities in Kazakhstan, a country about four times the size of Texas.

The AP notes that Kazakhstan has had problems with air safety before: from 2009to 2016, all Kazakh airlines except Air Astana were banned from operating in the European Union because they didn't meet international safety regulations.

The plane in Friday's crash was built in 1996 and had been most recently certified in May. The government has pledged $10,000 to each of the families of the survivors, the AP reports.

NPR international correspondent Lucian Kim contributed from Moscow.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.