At least 29 people were killed and at least 50 injured when a Philippine military aircraft carrying troops crashed and burst into flames after missing the runway in the south of the country, officials said,
Ninety-two people, most of them recent army graduates, were onboard the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft when the accident happened as it tried to land on Jolo island in Sulu province at about midday on Sunday.
Photos taken by local media outlet Pondohan TV and posted on Facebook showed the wrecked body of the plane engulfed in flames. A plume of thick black smoke rose above houses near the crash site.
The chief of the armed forces, Gen Cirilito Sobejana, said the aircraft had been carrying troops from Cagayan de Oro on the southern island of Mindanao when it missed the runway as it tried to land on Jolo.
The plane tried to “regain power but didn’t make it”, he told local media, describing the accident as “very unfortunate”.
“Responders are at the site now. We are praying we can save more lives,” Sobejana told AFP.
Sobejana said the people rescued from the wreckage were being treated at the nearby 11th infantry division hospital.
Air force spokesman Lieut-Col Maynard Mariano said the cause of the crash would be investigated. “We are on rescue mode right now,” Mariano told AFP.
The incident was being treated as an accident rather than an attack, armed forces spokesman Maj-Gen Edgard Arevalo told DZBB radio.
The four-engine plane crashed near a quarry in a lightly populated area, First Lieut Jerrica Angela Manongdo told AFP, adding the rescue operation had finished.
Initial reports said the aircraft overshot the landing strip and broke into two, Western Mindanao command chief Lieut-Gen Corleto Vinluan told AFP.
Most of the passengers had graduated recently from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a joint taskforce fighting terrorism in the Muslim-majority region.
The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines, where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.
C-130 aircraft, the workhorses of the air force, are used to transport troops and supplies. They are also deployed to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The crash was one of the country’s deadliest military aviation accidents.
Sen Richard Gordon said it was the fourth this year with “mass casualties”. “Are we buying defective crafts with the people’s money?” he tweeted.
Sunday’s accident came after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed last month during a night-time training flight, killing all six on board. Three pilots and three airmen died when their S70-i went down.