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Russia hunts for clues amid snow after fatal plane crash claims 71 lives

Emergency workers have found 200 body parts strewn across a snowy field near Moscow at the site of the plane crash

AFP  |  Stepanovskoye (Russia) 

Russia plane crash
Photo: AP/PTI

Investigators scoured the scene today after a passenger plane crashed near minutes after take-off, killing all 71 people on board, in one of Russia's worst-ever plane crashes. Emergency workers have found 200 body parts strewn across a snowy field near at the site of the plane crash.

Body parts found among and around the are to be removed on Monday as a group of 600 rescue workers continue to comb the area with the help of Russian aircraft.

The site of the crash was enveloped in heavy snow that was waist-high in places, making it difficult to access, with emergency workers forced to reach the wreckage by foot and use snowmobiles.

Russia's said it would consider explanations for the crash including human error, technical failure and weather conditions, as the country has experienced record snowfall in recent weeks. It did not mention the possibility of terrorism.

The plane went down in the district around 70 kms southeast of after taking off from in the Russian capital and disappearing off the radar at 2:28 pm (1128 GMT) yesterday.

"Sixty-five passengers and six crew members were on board, and all of them died," Russia's office of transport investigations said in a statement.

A Swiss citizen and a citizen of were among the fatalities on a list released by the emergency services ministry. Three children also died including a five-year-old girl.

The flight was operated by the domestic and was headed for Orsk, a city in the Ural mountains.

Around one hundred investigators and criminologists were working at the scene, the Investigative Committee, which investigates major incidents, said today.

The emergency services ministry said at least one of the two black boxes had been found.

With the wreckage of the plane spread over more than 30 hectares around the crash site, it will take a week to inspect the whole area, the emergency services ministry said.

More than 900 including drones were involved in the search operation, which has been reclassified as looking for bodies rather than survivors, the ministry said.

"We plan to carry out the main stage of the in seven days because the plane debris is scattered over a very large area," said at the scene, quoted by news agency, adding that "heavy snow" hampered searchers.

"We walked about 600 to 700 metres across a field, with snow in places waist-deep," said Alexei Besedin, one of the first rescuers to reach the scene, quoted by the emergency services ministry.

"I felt a shock wave," Maria, a resident of a village near the crash site, told AFP.

"The windows shook," she said

The transport investigations office said the plane disappeared from radar screens several minutes after take-off.

The Russian-made plane was reportedly seven years old and bought by from another Russian a year ago.

Saratov Airlines was founded in the 1930s and flies to 35 Russian cities. Its hub is in southern

Russian offered "his profound condolences to those who lost their relatives in the crash," his said.

Putin - who is running for re-election in a March 18 poll - cancelled plans to travel to the resort of Sochi to meet with Palestinian leader Instead, the meeting was to take place in Moscow.

The governor of the region, where the plane was heading, told media that "more than 60 people" on board the plane were from the region.

The region declared today a day of mourning with flags lowered and entertainment events cancelled.

With a population of 237,000 people, Orsk is the second biggest city in the region, near Russia's border with

has suffered numerous plane crashes, with airlines often operating ageing aircraft in dangerous flying conditions.

A light aircraft crashed in November in Russia's far east, killing six people on board.

In December 2016, a military plane carrying Russia's famed Red Army Choir crashed after taking off from Sochi, killing all 92 people on board.

The choir had been due to give a concert to Russian troops in

was blamed for that crash.

In March 2016, all 62 passengers died when a jet crashed in bad weather during an aborted landing at

First Published: Mon, February 12 2018. 19:23 IST