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Boeing 737 crashes on takeoff from Havana airport

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The jet crashed near to Havana's Jose Marti International Airport, with a thick column of smoke rising from the scene.

Footage showed the plane lying in a field looking heavily damaged and burnt. Firefighters were extinguishing the smoldering remains.

What we know so far

  • Most of those on board are feared dead, with three survivors known to be in critical condition.
  • There were 104 passengers and nine crew members on the plane at the time.
  • Most of the passengers were Cuban nationals. The plane had five foreign passengers, and six of the crew members were Mexican.
  • The cause of the accident remains unclear.
  • The plane, a Boeing 737- 200, belonged to the Mexican company Damojh, now known as Global Air, and was being operated on behalf of state airline Cubana.

'High number of victims'

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who rushed to the scene, said many on board were thought to have died. "The news is not very promising, it seems that there is a high number of victims," Diaz-Canel was quoted as saying after his visit. He added that an investigation into the cause of the crash would begin.

There were messages of support from across the Spanish-speaking world.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sent a message of support for the families of the victims. "Our message of condolence for the families and the victims of the deadly accident today in Havana. Strength and peace to them at this moment of pain. They have all our support."

The King of Spain Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, expressed their "support and solidarity for the families of those who died and best wishes for the recovery of those who were injured."

Past issues with air safety

Cubana has withdrawn many of its own planes from service in recent months because of mechanical problems.

Cuba has a poor record on air safety. The most serious to date was in September 1989, when an Ilyushin 62 jet operated by Cubana and carrying 126 people crashed after taking off from Havana for Milan, Italy.

Among Cubans, Cubana is notorious for frequent delays and cancellations, a problem the airline blames on a lack of parts and airplanes due to the US trade embargo on Cuba. Cuba's First Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa met Cubana officials on Thursday to discuss improvements in its heavily criticized service.

rc/msh (EFE, dpa, AFP, AP, Reuters)

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