TEHRAN: All 66 people on board an Iranian passenger plane were feared dead on Sunday after it crashed into the country’s Zagros mountains, with emergency services struggling to locate the wreckage in blizzard conditions.
Aseman Airlines flight EP3704 left Tehran around 0800 (0430 GMT) for the city of Yasuj, some 500 kilometres (300 miles) to the south, the airline’s public relations chief Mohammad Tabatabai told state broadcaster IRIB.
The ATR-72 twin-engine plane, in service since 1993, disappeared from radar around 45 minutes after takeoff from the capital’s Mehrabad airport.
Emergency services had yet to locate the precise location of the crash.
The plane was carrying 60 passengers, including one child, as well as six crew, said Tabatabai.
“After searches in the area, unfortunately we were informed that the plane crashed. Unfortunately, our dear ones lost their lives in this incident,” he said.
But he later retracted his statement, telling the ISNA news agency: “We still have no access to the spot of the crash and therefore we cannot accurately and definitely confirm the death of all passengers.”
There were conflicting reports on the location of the crash site as emergency teams battled severe weather.
“The rescue and relief teams were sent to the possible area of the crash… but the helicopter could not continue its path due to snow and blizzard,” Jalal Pooranfar, regional head for Iran’s emergency services, told the ISNA news agency.
He said teams were being sent by land.
“Right now there are five rescue and relief teams of the emergency service in the area. But they still haven’t spotted anything,” said Pooranfar.
The Relief and Rescue Organisation of Iran’s Red Crescent said it had also sent 12 teams to the region.