38 die in plane crash in Teheran
A CIVILIAN airliner crashed moments after it took off from Teheran yesterday, killing at least 38 people on board and narrowly avoiding more fatalities on the ground.
The plane was headed to the eastern city of Tabas when it crashed around 4.48am GMT (12.48pm Singapore time) after leaving Mehrabad airport.
It plummeted into the Azadi neighbourhood, just west of central Teheran, close to a residential area for military families.
Iran's deputy transport minister, Ahmad Majidi, said the Antonov An-140 turboprop plane had 40 passengers, including six children, and eight crew on board, and he put the death toll at 38.
A fire official initially said all on board had been killed but later reports said nine people were hospitalised, two of them critically injured.
The aircraft was operated by Sepahan Airlines and an aircraft tailfin bearing its dolphin logo could be seen sticking out of the road as security forces cordoned off the crash site.
Black smoke billowed from the wreckage, with officials saying the plane hit a wall and trees, close to a market.
"The scene was terrible, with the back of the plane in the middle of the street," one eyewitness said.
"We were lucky because there was a market 500m away and a lot of people were there."
Mehrabad airport is near central Teheran and is Iran's main domestic hub and by far the busiest of the country's airports, serving routes to all Iranian cities.
Most international flights take off from Teheran Imam Khomeini International Airport, which is located farther west of Teheran.
Iran has suffered several air crashes in recent years, blamed on ageing planes, poor maintenance and a shortage of new parts because of international sanctions.