By Atiya Riffat
More than 100 people are believed dead Friday after a Cubana de Aviacion Boeing 737-200 crashed on takeoff from Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, according to Cuba’s state-run media.
Three female passengers are in critical condition after surviving the crash into thick vegetation just miles from the runway, the state-run newspaper Granma reported. Earlier Friday evening, Granma reported that one of the three survivors had died. Shortly afterward, Granma issued a correction, saying that all three women are alive.
Flight DMJ 0972 was headed to the eastern Cuban city of Holguin when it plummeted into in an agricultural area in the Santiago de las Vegas neighborhood at 12:08 p.m., according to Granma.
There were 105 passengers on board, including one infant. Five passengers were foreigners and 100 were Cuban. Granma reported
Argentina’s Foreign Ministry said two passengers were Argentine.
Five crew members on board were Mexican nationals, according to Mexico’s Civil Aviation Authority. The crew members, all Mexicans, were identified as Capt. Jorge Luis Nunez Santos, first officer Miguel Angel Arreola Ramirez, and flight attendants Maria Daniela Rios, Abigail Hernandez Garcia and Beatriz Limon, according to Granma.
The nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737-200 was owned by the Mexican airline Aerolíneas Damojh. The charter flight “suffered a failure” and crashed about six miles from the airport.
Search and rescue personnel descended on the area — with some residents helping — as firefighters tried to extinguish the flames, according to photos and video from the scene.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel was at the scene of the accident, the newspaper reported.
Diaz-Canel later offered his condolences to the victims’ families and told reporters the cause of the crash was under investigation.
Cuban State TV announced two days of mourning, during which flags will fly at half-staff.