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20 priests among 100 killed in Cuba plane crash

Sun 20 May 2018
By Press Association

Officials in Cuba have said 20 priests were among more than 100 people who were killed in a plane crash.

The Boeing 737 came down into a field in Havana on Friday, before flames were seen coming from the aircraft.

Three women who were pulled from the wreckage are thought to be the only survivors.

 

Carlos Alberto Martinez, director of the Calixto Garcia Hospital in capital city Havana, said doctors are always hopeful that their patients will recover but he acknowledged that the three Cuban women are in an extremely grave condition.

"We must be conscious that they present severe injuries," Mr Martinez said. "They are in a critical state."

The Cuban Council of Churches announced that 20 clergy members of an evangelical church were among the dead.

"On that plane were 10 couples of pastors, 20 people. All of the Nazarene Church in the eastern region," said Maite Quesada, a member of the council.

The pastors had spent several days at a meeting in the capital and were returning to their homes and places of worship in the province of Holguin.

Relatives of those who died gathered at a morgue in the capital, weeping and embracing each other, as investigators tried to piece together why the ageing Boeing 737 carrying 113 people went down and erupted in flames shortly after take-off on Friday afternoon.

It was Cuba's worst aviation disaster in three decades and its third major air accident since 2010.

Skies were overcast and rainy at the airport at the time of Friday's disaster and Cuban state television said the 39-year-old jet veered sharply to the right after departing on a domestic flight to the eastern city of Holguin.

State airline Cubana, which operated the flight, has had a generally good safety record but is notorious for delays and cancellations, and has taken many of its planes out of service because of maintenance problems in recent months, prompting it to hire charter aircraft from other companies.

In addition to the Mexican crew, Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma reported that the passengers were mostly Cubans plus five foreigners from countries it did not identify. Argentina's Foreign Ministry said two of its citizens had died in the crash.

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