DUBAI: A Ukrainian airliner crashed soon after taking off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport on Wednesday (Jan 8), killing all 176 people aboard.
The Boeing 737 belonging to Ukraine International Airlines, which was bound for Kiev, crashed near the airport and burst into flames.
Ukraine's embassy in Iran, citing preliminary information, said the plane had suffered engine failure and the crash was not caused by "terrorism".
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said there were no survivors.
"My sincere condolences to the relatives and friends of all passengers and crew," Zelenskiy said in a statement, adding that Ukraine was seeking to establish the circumstances of the crash and the death toll.
Iranian TV said the crash was due to technical problems but did not elaborate. State broadcaster IRIB said on its website that one of the plane's two black boxes - the flight data recorder and the cockpit voice recorder - had been found.
Iranian media quoted an Iranian aviation official as saying the pilot of the airliner did not declare an emergency.
There was no official word from Ukraine International Airlines. It was the Kiev-based airline's first fatal crash.
"The fire is so heavy that we cannot (do) any rescue... we have 22 ambulances, four bus ambulances and a helicopter at the site," Pirhossein Koulivand, head of Iran's emergency services, told state television.
Ukraine's prime minister and Iranian state TV said 167 passengers and nine crew members were on board.
Ukraine's foreign minister Vadym Prystaiko said on Twitter there were 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians on board.
Emergency services spokesman Mojtaba Khaledi had earlier said the vast majority of the dead were Iranian citizens.
Just two passengers and nine crew members were Ukrainian, according to Ukraine's national security council, which is overseeing a crisis team.
32 of those on board were foreigners.
Television footage showed debris and smouldering engine parts strewn across a field, and rescue workers with face masks retrieving bodies of the victims.
According to air tracking service FlightRadar24, the plane that crashed was Flight PS 752 and was flying to Kiev. The plane was three years old and was a Boeing 737-800NG, it said.
The model's twin engines are made by CFM International, a US-French venture co-owned by General Electric and France’s Safran.
Modern aircraft are designed and certified to cope with an engine failure shortly after take-off and to fly for extended periods on one engine. However, an uncontained engine failure releasing shrapnel can cause damage to other aircraft systems.
A spokesman for Boeing said the company was aware of media reports of a plane crash in Iran and was gathering more information. The plane manufacturer grounded its 737 MAX fleet in March after two crashes that killed 346 people.
The 737-800 is one of the world’s most-flown models with a good safety record and which does not have the software feature implicated in crashes of the 737 MAX.
Under international rules overseen by the United Nations, Iran is responsible for leading the crash investigation.
Ukraine would be involved and the United States would usually be accredited as the country where the Boeing jet was designed and built. France, where the engine maker CFM has half its activities, may also be involved.
There was no immediate word on whether the US National Transportation Safety Board would be involved in the probe amid escalating tensions between the US and Iran. The NTSB usually invites Boeing to give technical advice in such investigations.
"Everyone is helping so that we can gather all the bodies that have been scattered in a wide area," said Fathi.
Press TV, state television's English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.
The crash was likely to have been caused by "technical difficulties", it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.
"The plane caught fire after crashing," said Press TV.
A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.
Boeing spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the company was aware of media reports of a plane crash in Iran and was gathering more information.
BBC correspondent, Ali Hashem, posted a tweet purportedly of the crash; the video in the tweet shows a plane in flames mid-flight before crashing into the ground in a fireball.