Experts excavate plane crash site in northern Greece


PALAIOCHORI, Greece (AP) — Experts were set to search the site of a plane crash in northern Greece early Sunday to determine what kind of cargo it was carrying.

The An-12 cargo plane, which took off on Saturday from the city of Nis, Serbia, and was heading for Amman, Jordan, crashed shortly before 11 p.m. local time, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. west of Kavala International Airport. Minutes earlier, the pilot of the plane, operated by Ukrainian cargo carrier Meridian, told air traffic controllers there was a problem with one of its engines and he needed to make an emergency landing . He was directed to Kavala airport but never arrived.

The aircraft is a Soviet-era four-engine turboprop cargo carrier.

Greek media reported that there were eight people on the plane and that it was carrying 12 tonnes of “dangerous materials”, mostly explosives. But local officials said they had no specific information about the cargo and provided slightly varying numbers of people on board.

Drone footage shows small fragments are all that remains of the plane, which crashed in fields between two villages and dragged a small distance on the ground. Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash. A plume of white smoke still rose from the front of the plane on Sunday morning.

Firefighters who rushed to the scene overnight were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell that they feared was poisonous. Nearby residents were told to keep their windows closed all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks. Authorities say they don’t know if there were any dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those in the batteries.

The teams of explosives experts who will soon operate there will be reinforced by experts from the Greek Atomic Energy Commission, the authorities said.

Firefighters cordoned off the area within a radius of about 400 meters.


Nellas reported from Athens, Greece