by David Vujanovic
A Ukrainian airliner carrying at least 170 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Tehran on Wednesday, killing all on board, Iran state media reported.
The Boeing 737 had left Tehran’s international airport bound for Kiev, semi-official news agency ISNA said.
“Obviously it is impossible that passengers” on flight PS-752 are alive, Red Crescent head Morteza Salimi told semi-official news agency ISNA, adding that 170 passengers and crew had boarded the plane.
State news agency IRNA said 167 passengers and nine crew members had boarded the aircraft, which was operated by Ukraine International Airlines.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed all those on board the plane were killed.
“According to preliminary data, all passengers and crew members are dead,” he wrote on Facebook of the Ukraine International Airlines plane, which was bound for Kiev.
The Red Crescent said teams were assisted by soldiers and firefighters in the effort to recover bodies.
“After six o’clock (0230 GMT) this morning we were informed that a passenger plane crashed in the vicinity of Shahriar,” said Shahin Fathi, the head of its search and rescue unit.
“All operational teams were dispatched to the area,” he told state television. “Unfortunately… we haven’t found anyone alive.”
– Bodies scattered –
“Everyone is helping so that we can gather all the bodies that have been scattered in a wide area,” said Fathi.
Press TV, state television’s English-language news broadcaster, said the plane went down in the vicinity of Parand, a city in Tehran province.
The crash was likely to have been caused by “technical difficulties”, it reported, citing Ali Khashani, spokesman for Imam Khomeini International Airport.
“The plane caught fire after crashing,” said Press TV.
A video aired by the state media broadcaster appeared to show the plane already on fire, falling from the sky.
American airline manufacturer Boeing tweeted: “We are aware of the media reports out of Iran and we are gathering more information.”
– US-Iran tensions –
The crash came shortly after Iran said it fired missiles at Iraqi bases in revenge for the killing of one of the Islamic republic’s top military commanders in a US drone strike on Friday.
Following the missile strikes, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf after rocket attacks on US forces in Iraq.
“The (FAA) issues Notices to Airmen tonight outlining flight restrictions that prohibit US civil aviation operators from operating in the airspace over Iraq, Iran and the waters of the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman,” it said in a statement.
“The FAA will continue closely monitoring events in the Middle East.”
Iran launched the missiles after a US drone strike killed Qasem Soleimani, a hugely popular figure who headed the foreign operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed “severe revenge” for the assassination and declared three days of mourning following the assassination which shocked the Islamic republic.
The assassination of Soleimani set off an escalating war of words between Iran and the US.
In Tehran, President Hassan Rouhani on Monday warned Trump to “never threaten” Iran, after the US leader issued a US strike list of 52 targets in the Islamic republic.