At least 17 people have been killed and many injured after a Philippines Air Force plane carrying troops crashed and burst into flames.
The incident happened shortly before noon on Sunday in the mountainous Bangkal village in the town of Patikul in the southern Sulu province, where the plane ‘missed the runway’, according to an official.
‘So far 40 wounded and injured were rescued and 17 bodies recovered. Rescue and recovery is ongoing,’ Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement, also adding that 92 people had been onboard the Lockheed C-130 Hercules transport aircraft.
The C-130 was one of two ex-U.S. Air Force aircraft handed over to the Philippines as part of military assistance this year.
Those onboard included three pilots and five crew – the rest were army personnel, he said. The pilots survived but were seriously injured.
Military chief Cirilito Sobejana said ‘the plane allegedly missed the runway trying to regain power.’
A military spokesman, Colonel Edgard Arevalo, said that they focussed more on rescue and treatment and also told the press that they haven’t started a crash investigation and indicated that there is no sign of an attack on the plane.
The crash happened in the far south of the archipelago nation where the army has been fighting a long war against Islamist militants from the Abu Sayyaf and other factions.
Pictures from the scene showed flames and smoke pouring from wreckage strewn among trees as men in combat uniform milled around. A large column of black smoke rose into the sky above houses located near the crash site.
Initial pictures released by the military showed the tail section of the cargo plane. The other parts of the plane were burned or scattered in pieces in a clearing surrounded by coconut trees.
Soldiers and other rescuers with stretchers are seen dashing into and from the smoke-shrouded crash site.
All photos appeared to suggest that the weather was fine in Sulu at the time of the crash, although other parts of the Philippines were experiencing rains due to an approaching tropical depression.
Sobejana said in a message to Reuters news agency that the plane had crashed a few kilometres (miles) from Jolo airport at 11:30 a.m. (0330 GMT) and had been carrying troops.
‘We are currently attending to the survivors who were immediately brought to the 11th Infantry Division station hospital in Busbus, Jolo, Sulu,’ he said.
The plane was transporting troops from the southern Cagayan de Oro city, many of them had recently graduated from basic military training, AFP reported.
An air force official told The Associated Press that the Jolo runway is shorter than most others in the country, making it more difficult for pilots to adjust if an aircraft misses the landing spot.
The official, who has flown military aircraft to and from Jolo several times, spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly.
The airport is located a few miles from a mountainous area where troops have been battling Abu Sayyaf. Some militants there have aligned themselves with the Islamic State group.
The United States and the Philippines have separately blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a terrorist organisation for bombings, ransom kidnappings and beheadings.
It has been considerably weakened by years of government offensives but remains a threat.