All 66 on board killed as plane crashes in Southwest Iran

Tehran: All 66 people on board an Iranian passenger plane EP3704 died on Sunday after it crashed into the country’s Zagros mountains, with emergency services struggling to locate the wreckage in blizzard conditions.

Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 left Tehran around 0800 (0430 GMT) for the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south, the airline’s public relations chief Mohammad Tabatabai told state broadcaster IRIB.

The ATR-72 twin-engine plane  disappeared from radar around 45 minutes after takeoff from the capital’s Mehrabad airport. The plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, as well as six crew.

Pilot Hojatollah Fooled successfully landed a similar plane after an engine problem in 2013, the airline said in an Instagram post.

“On a previous flight from Yasuj to Tehran in 2013 he had an issue where the second engine of the ATR72 went out,” said the post. “But he manged to land the plane safely at Yasuj airport.”

“This is a snow-covered mountainous area, much like the Rockies in America or the European Alps,” CNN Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley said. “Any rescue operation will depend entirely on the weather.”

According to the IRNA  news agency, several flights from Tehran were disrupted Sunday due to bad weather. And at Abadan International Airport in southwestern Iran, two domestic flights were canceled due to pollution, which reduced visibility range to two meters, IRNA added.

“The rescue and relief teams were sent to the possible area of the crash… but the helicopter could not continue its path due to snow and blizzard,” Jalal Pooranfar, regional head for Iran’s emergency services, told the ISNA news agency.
He said teams were being sent by land.

“Right now there are five rescue and relief teams of the emergency service in the area. But they still haven’t spotted anything,” said Pooranfar.
The Relief and Rescue Organisation of Iran’s Red Crescent said it had also sent 12 teams to the region.

Aseman currently has a fleet of 36 planes, including at least three ATR-72s that date back to the early 1990s, according to the IRNA news agency. A spokesman for ATR, a subsidiary of Europe’s Airbus, told AFP in Paris the company was “researching the details” of Sunday’s crash.

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