Sunday, 25 December 2016

Russian jet bound for Syria crashes into Black Sea, 92 dead

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Rescue teams have been searching for victims after a Russian plane carrying 92 people to Syria crashed into the Black Sea shortly after takeoff. All 84 passengers and eight crew members on board the plane operated by the Russian military are believed to have died when it crashed two minutes after taking off at 5:25am local time (02:25 GMT) in good weather from the southern Russian city of Sochi. Investigators said on Sunday they were looking into every possible cause for the crash of the Soviet-built Tu-154 plane.

Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov, in charge of a state probe into the crash, said on state television that investigators were looking into a "whole spectrum" of theories on the cause of the crash.

When asked if a "terror attack" could have been behind the crash, Sokolov said: "It is premature to speak of this." He added that the aircraft's black boxes had yet to be found.

More than 3,000 people - including over 100 divers flown in from across Russia - worked from 32 ships and several helicopters to search the crash site, the defence ministry said.

Drones and submersibles were also being used to help spot bodies and debris. Powerful spotlights were brought in so the search could continue around the clock.

Emergency crews found fragments of the plane about 1.5km from shore. By Sunday evening, rescue teams had recovered 11 bodies and Sokolov, the transport minister, said fragments of other bodies were also found.

The plane belonging to the defence ministry was taking its famed choir, the Alexandrov Ensemble, to a New Year's concert at Hemeimeem air base in Syria's coastal province of Latakia. Those on board also included nine Russian journalists and a Russian doctor famous for her work in war zones.

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