A Ukrainian cargo plane carrying munitions from Serbia to Bangladesh crashed near the city of Kavala in northern Greece late on Saturday, killing the crew members on board, Serbian authorities and Meridian airline said on Sunday.
Drone images from the scene showed smouldering debris from the Antonov An-12 aircraft strewn in fields, Reuters reported.
Greek authorities said there were eight crew members on board and a Ukrainian foreign ministry spokesman said they were all Ukrainian citizens.
Ukrainian-based airline Meridian, which operated the aircraft, said all the crew members were killed in the crash.
Serbia’s defence minister said the plane was carrying 11.5 tonnes of products, including mortar and training shells, made by its defence industry. The buyer of the cargo was the defence ministry of Bangladesh, he said.
Denys Bogdanovych, Meridian’s general director, confirmed Serbia’s account of events. “This is not related to Ukraine or Russia,” Bogdanovych told Reuters by telephone.
Witnesses said the aircraft came down in a ball of flames before exploding on impact in corn fields around midnight local time. Earlier the pilot had reported engine trouble and had requested an emergency landing.
Greek authorities could not provide information on the aircraft’s cargo or the crew. The special disaster response unit and army experts were dispatched to the scene, while local authorities issued a ban on people moving in the area.
Serbia’s defence minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said the cargo included illuminating mortar shells and training shells.
It had taken off at 18:40 GMT Saturday from Nis in Serbia, Reuters reported.
“The plane carried 11.5 tonnes of products made by our defence industry. The buyer was the Bangladesh defence ministry,” Stefanovic said.
He said the plane’s cargo was owned by Serbian company Valir, a company registered to perform foreign trade activities of armament military equipment and other defence products.
Greek state TV ERT said the aircraft’s signal was lost soon after the pilot requested an emergency landing from Greek aviation authorities due to an engine problem.
Amateur video footage uploaded on ertnews.gr showed the aircraft in flames descending fast before hitting the ground in what appeared to be an explosion.
“I wonder how it didn’t fall on our houses,” one witness, Aimilia Tsaptanova, told reporters. “It was full of smoke, it had a noise I can’t describe and went over the mountain. It passed the mountain and turned and crashed into the fields.”
A senior source at Jordan’s civil aviation regulatory commission denied initial reports that the plane was headed to Jordan. The source said that its flight itinerary included a stopover in Jordan’s Queen Alia international airport at 9:30 pm (0630 GMT), to refuel, state news agency Petra reported on Sunday.
It was also due to stop in Riyadh and Ahmedabad in India before heading to Dhaka, Serbia’s defence minister said.
Bus crash in Croatia leaves 12 Polish pilgrims dead, 32 injured
Twelve people were killed in Croatia on Saturday when a Polish bus filled with religious pilgrims slipped off a road and crashed near Varazdin, authorities said, Reuters reported.
Thirty-two people were injured in the crash which happened at 5:40 a.m. (0340 GMT) on the highway between Varazdin, in northwest Croatia, and capital Zagreb.
Croatian Health Minister Vili Beros said 19 people were in a serious condition.
According to Reuters Marcin Przydacz, deputy head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, who was travelling to the site on Saturday, said the injured were being treated at five hospitals in Croatia.
He said there were 44 Polish pilgrims on the bus driving from Poland to Medjugorje, a Roman Catholic shrine in southern Bosnia, including two drivers. Among them were three priests and six nuns, a ministry spokesman said.
Police cleared the area where the accident took place after firefighters and medical teams recovered all the occupants of the vehicle which had Warsaw registration plates, read the report.
Polish police officers, in Croatia as part of project “Safe Tourist Destination” project, were helping Croatian authorities in communicating with the survivors.
An investigation has been started into the cause of the accident.
Taiwan official leading missile production dies of heart attack
The deputy head of Taiwan defence ministry’s research and development unit was found dead on Saturday morning in a hotel room, succumbing to a heart attack, according to the official Central News Agency.
Ou Yang Li-hsing, deputy head of the military-owned National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology, had died in a hotel room in southern Taiwan, CNA reported.
Authorities said 57-year-old Ou Yang died of a heart attack and the hotel room showed no sign of any ‘intrusion’, CNA said.
His family said he had a history of heart disease and had a cardiac stent, according to the report, Reuters reported.
Ou Yang was on a business trip to the southern county of Pingtung, CNA said, adding that he had assumed the post early this year to supervise various missile production projects.
The military-owned body is working to more than double its yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year, as the island boosts its combat power amid what it sees as China’s growing military threat.
Four people critically injured in lightning strike near White House
Four people were in critical condition on Thursday after a lightning strike at Washington’s Lafayette Square in front of the White House, Reuters quoted a D.C. fire official said.
The injured – two adult males and two adult females – were transported to area hospitals with life-threatening injuries, Vito Maggiolo, a D.C. Fire and EMS spokesperson, said.
According to Reuters Lafayette Square, a seven-acre public park that lies directly north of the White House, is often crowded with visitors, especially in the summer months. The lightning struck the four people near a tree that stands yards away from the fence that surrounds the presidential residence and offices.
Temperatures in Washington exceeded 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) on Thursday, although, with the high humidity, the heat felt like more than 100F, forecasters said. A violent thunderstorm swept through the capital late in the day, read the report.
Officers of the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Park Police, which have a regular presence in the square, went to the assistance of the victims immediately, Maggiolo said.
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