The death toll in a military plane crash in the Philippines rises to 50


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Patikul (Philippines) (AFP)

Filipino security forces searched Monday between coconut trees on a remote South Island for the flight data boxes of a plane that crashed in one of the country’s worst military air disasters, killing 50 people.

The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft was carrying 96 people, most of them recent army graduates, when it shot over the runway on Sunday while attempting to land on Jolo Island in Sulu province – a haven for Islamist militants.

The plane skid in a village and went up in flames, killing 50 people, including 47 military personnel and three civilians, said military spokesman Major General Edgard Arevalo.

Another 53 were injured, most of them soldiers. It was not clear whether the pilots were among the survivors.

“This is one of the worst tragic incidents that has occurred in our armed forces,” said Arevalo.

The three civilians killed were not on the flight and worked in a stone quarry, village chief Tanda Hailid told AFP.

Photos of the scene released by the military’s rescue unit showed the damaged tail and smoking wreckage scattered in a coconut grove.

“We have people on site to ensure the integrity of the evidence we are going to recover, especially the flight recorder,” Arevalo said.

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“In addition to eyewitness reports, we are also looking for recordings, radio conversations between the pilot and the control tower.”

Arevalo said the military had secured the crash site and would ensure militants on the island do not disrupt searches.

Dental records were used to identify the charred remains of the victims.

Most of the passengers recently completed basic military training and were sent to the troubled island as part of a counterinsurgency in the Muslim-majority region.

The military has a strong presence in the southern Philippines, where militant groups, including the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping group, operate.

– ‘Bad Crash’ –

C-130s have been the workhorses of air forces around the world for decades, used to transport troops, supplies, and vehicles.

The used Hercules that crashed on Sunday was acquired from the US and shipped to the Philippines earlier this year.

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It was one of four in the country’s fleet. Two are being repaired while the third is on the ground after the crash.

“They are all experienced and experienced pilots, so we cannot immediately say how that … (happened) happened,” said Arevalo.

“Even if these (military assets) are not brand new … they are airworthy.”

“This is the worst Philippine military plane crash, with 50 deaths to date, compared to the 40 deaths in a PAF C-47 crash in 1971,” Jose Antonio Custodio, a military historian and analyst, told AFP.

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It was the latest in a series of recent military aircraft accidents in the Philippines.

Last month, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night training flight, killing all six on board. The accident resulted in the priming of the entire Black Hawk fleet in the country.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque said Monday the incidents would “stimulate further modernization” of the armed forces.

“The whole country is in mourning,” he said.

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