More than 100 people have died after a Boeing 737 airliner crashed near Cuba’s main airport in Havana, the country’s worst air disaster in decades.
Three women were pulled alive from the wreckage, but are said to be in a critical condition.
The plane, which was nearly 40 years old, was carrying 105 passengers and six crew members.
Cuban authorities have launched an investigation, and two days of national mourning have been declared.
The Boeing 737-201 crashed at 12:08 (16:08 GMT) on Friday, shortly after taking off from Havana on an internal flight to Holguin on the east of the island.
All six crew members on board were Mexican and the majority of the passengers were Cuban, with five foreigners reported to be among them.
It’s too early to say what caused the crash, but eyewitnesses on the ground describe seeing the jet burst into flames before crashing into a field close to a wooded area near Havana’s main airport.
“I saw it taking off,” supermarket worker Jose Luis told the AFP news agency. “All of a sudden, it made a turn, and went down. We were all amazed.”
“We heard an explosion and then saw a big cloud of smoke go up,” Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the crash site, told Reuters.
Mexico’s transport department said on its website that “during take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground”.
Boeing said that it was ready to send a technical team to Cuba, “as permitted under US law and at the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board and Cuban authorities”. A US trade embargo has been in force against Cuba for many decades.
Four people survived the crash but one died after being transported to hospital, the director of Havana’s Calixto Garcia hospital, Carlos Alberto Martinez, told Reuters.
The three survivors are all women, according to Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma: one aged between 18 and 25, one in her thirties and the third aged 39.
“She is alive but very burnt,” one of the women’s relatives at the hospital told Reuters.