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50 killed in Philippines military plane crash

MANILA, Philippines: At least 50 people were killed when a Philippine Air Force plane crashed in the southern Philippines on Sunday, the country’s worst military air disaster in decades.

The C-130 military plane was transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao, to Sulu province when it missed the runway on the island of Jolo, Armed Forces Chief Cirilito Sobejana said.

The plane, which was carrying 96 military personnel and crew, crashed into nearby Patikul village at 11:30 am local time on Sunday (11:30 pm ET).

“Minutes after the crash, troops and civilian volunteers rushed to the site for search and rescue. Per eyewitnesses, several soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” according to a press release by Joint Task Force Sulu.

Major-General Edgard Arevalo, a spokesman for the military, said 47 army personnel died, while 49 survived the crash and are being treated in hospitals. Three civilians on the ground were killed and four were injured, Arevalo said.

He added that the soldiers on the flight were fresh graduates and had just completed military training.

Philippine authorities ordered on Monday an investigation into the crash of an Air Force plane that overshot a runway killing 47 soldiers on board, three civilians on the ground and injuring dozens.

The aircraft, carrying recently graduated troops bound for counter-insurgency operations, had been trying to land at Jolo airport in southern Sulu province.

All 96 passengers on board had been accounted for, with 49 military personnel injured as well as four civilians on the ground, military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo said.

In a news conference, Arevalo said the plane was in “very good condition” and had 11,000 flying hours remaining before its next maintenance was due.

An investigative team arrived Monday to look for the plane’s flight data recorder and probe what caused the crash. They will also look into the reports of soldiers jumping from the plane.

Images from a local TV station appeared to show the burning wreck of the plane and thick smoke billowing from the village. A large plume of smoke is seen in images of the crash rising up through the palms to the blue sky.

Joint Task Force Sulu Commander William N Gonzales said the personnel travelling on the plane “were supposed to report to their battalions today. They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism.”

The C-130 military plane was transporting troops to Sulu province.

This is the country’s worst military air disaster in around 30 years, Reuters reported. In 1993, a Philippine Air Force C-130 crashed, killing 30 people.

The Lockheed Martin C-130 aircraft had recently arrived in the Philippines. It was one of two aircraft granted by the US government’s military financing programme, according to a US government website announcement in February.

The plane was considered to be in good condition. It had 11,000 flying hours left before it was due for maintenance.

All C-130s in the Philippines will now be grounded as part of the military’s standard operating procedure. However, the military only has one other C-130 in the country — the other two in the fleet are overseas for maintenance.

Sunday’s crash comes weeks after a newly acquired S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopter crashed during a night flight about 60 miles north of the capital Manila. All six people on board died.

It was one of a number of new combat utility helicopters bought by the armed forces in its bid to modernise its fleet, according to a Philippine government website.

The military personnel were supposed to bolster the battalions fighting against Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino jihadi group based in Sulu that has been involved in bomb attacks and piracy for decades. The group proclaimed allegiance to ISIS in 2014.