At least 100 killed after fiery plane crash in Cuba

Cuba plane crash near Havana airport

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel said an investigation is under way into Friday's crash of the almost 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased to national carrier Cubana de Aviacion by a Mexican company.

The only three survivors of a plane crash in Cuba remained in grave condition Saturday as investigators tried to determine why an aging Boeing 737 carrying 110 people went down and erupted in flames shortly after takeoff in Havana.

Allegations of previous safety complaints against the little-known Mexican company called Damojh that leased the almost 40-year-old Boeing 737 to Cuban flagship carrier Cubana also began to surface.

Following the crash, Cuban State TV announced two days of mourning.

The 104 passengers on board, mainly Cubans, included five foreigners, two of them from Argentina.

According to local media, three people survived the crash but were in a critical condition in hospital.

He later confirmed the fire had been put out and authorities were identifying the bodies of the dead and that an investigation had been opened into the crash.

The mourning period was set to last until midnight on Sunday, May 20, the Communist Party leader and former president Raul Castro said.

Five of the passengers and the crew were foreign, according to media reports.

Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness posted on Twitter: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Caribbean neighbours in Cuba after a Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed this afternoon at Havana's Jose Marti International Airport in Cuba".

An employee of a small Mexican charter firm says the passenger jet that crashed near the Havana airport belongs to the company and that six Mexican crew members were operating it. The plane crashed on a plantation field between the airport and the town of Santiago de las Vegas, in the southern Havanian municipality of Boyeros. All 68 people on board were killed.

Cuba plane crash near Havana airport
Officials say the Mexican company whose plane crashed in Havana received major safety complaints

Last year, a Cuban military plane crashed into a hillside in the western province of Artemisa, killing eight troops on board. The Mexican government said Mexicans citizens were among the dead, without providing further details.

From the supermarket where he works near the airport, Jose Luis, 49, said he saw the plane lifting off before it banked and plunged to the ground.

Flight 972 was operated by Cuba's state-run airline, Cubana de Aviacion, on a charter plane hired from Global Air.

Residents of the rural area said they had seen some survivors being taken away in ambulances.

"The explosion shook everything", he said.

"I started running, I was so afraid".

Mexico's transport department said on its website that "during take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground".

Global Air said the airplane was flown by a crew of six Mexicans: the pilot, copilot, three flight attendants and a maintenance technician.

"She is alive but very burnt and swollen", said one of the women's relatives at the hospital.

The company had permits needed to lease its aircraft and had passed a verification of its maintenance programme in November a year ago, Mexican authorities said.

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