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Death toll climbs to 50 in Philippine military plane crash, 53 others injured

Death toll climbs to 50 in Philippine military plane crash, 53 others injured

The remains of a Philippine military C-130 plane that crashed in Patikul town, Jolo province, southern Philippines on Jul 4, 2021. (Photo: AFP/ Joint Task Force-Sulu)

MANILA: All 96 passengers of the Philippine Air Force plane that crashed on Sunday (Jul 4) have been accounted for, military chief Cirilito Sobejana said on Monday.

The crash happened when the Hercules C-130 transport plane, which was carrying mostly recent army graduates, overshot the runway while trying to land in sunny weather on Jolo island in Sulu province.

It failed to regain enough power and height and crashed at nearby Patikul.

READ: At least 45 dead after Philippine military plane crashes

The death toll from the crash was 50, including 47 members of military personnel and three civilians, said Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo.

The three civilians killed on the ground had been working in a quarry, village leader Tanda Hailid told AFP.

Another 53 people were injured, including soldiers and civilians. It is not clear if the pilots were among the survivors. 

Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he had ordered an investigation of the incident, which would begin after rescue and recovery operations had been completed.

The military command said the soldiers aboard had the rank of private and were being deployed to their battalions.

"A number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash," the Joint Task Force Sulu said in a statement.

Army personnel work at the site after a Philippines Air Force Lockheed C-130 plane carrying troops crashed on landing in Patikul, Sulu province, Philippines on Jul 4, 2021. (Photo: Armed Forces of the Philippines - Joint Task Force Sulu via Reuters)

It was not immediately clear how many jumped or whether they had survived.

Photos of the crash site released by the Joint Task Force-Sulu showed the damaged tail and the smoking wreckage of the fuselage's back section laying near coconut trees.

Images published by local media outlet Pondohan TV on its Facebook page showed the wreckage engulfed in flames and a plume of thick black smoke rising above houses located near the site.

Jolo airport has a 1,200m runway that usually takes civilian turboprop flights though occasionally some military flights, according to a Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesperson.

Jolo island, part of the Sulu archipelago, is about 950km south of the capital, Manila.

The army in the sprawling Philippine archipelago has been fighting a long war against Islamist militants from Abu Sayyaf and other factions.

"They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism," said Commander William N Gonzales of Joint Task Force Sulu.

A Philippine military plane carrying troops crashed in a southern province Sunday after missing the runway on July 4, 2021. (Photo: Facebook/Rotary Clubs of the Philippines)

The Lockheed C-130H Hercules aircraft, with registration 5125, had only recently arrived in the Philippines.

It was one of two aircraft provided by the US government through the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, a government website said in January. It quoted an air force spokesman as saying the aircraft would boost capability for heavy airlift missions.

Senator Richard Gordon said it was the fourth military aircraft accident this year with "mass casualties".

"Are we buying defective crafts... (with) the people's money?" he tweeted.

Lorenzana said the previous mishaps were being probed and dismissed speculation about the causes as "disrespectful" to victims and their families.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque described the accident as "very unfortunate".

The US offered "deep condolences," national security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement released by the White House.

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Philippine allies at this difficult time and are ready to provide all appropriate support to the Philippines' response effort," he said.

Source: AFP/reuters


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