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Central Asia

Passenger plane crashes in poor Kazakh weather

A plane with roughly 20 people on board has crashed near Almaty in southeastern Kazakhstan. The plane belonged to the private SCAT airline. Rescuers were deployed but early indications were that no occupants survived.

The passenger plane went down in thick fog close to Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty early on Tuesday afternoon. The Emergency Services Ministry said it dropped off the radar at 13:13 local time (0713 UCT).

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board.

The company issued a statement, cited by the Russian news agency Interfax, saying 15 passengers and five crew were killed in the crash. Reuters news agency, meanwhile, reported that the deputy head of Almaty's emergency department put the death toll at 22.

"There was no fire, no explosion. The plane just plunged to the earth," Yuri Ilyin told Reuters.

SCAT said in its initial statement that poor visibility had forced the plane to abort one landing and embark on a second approach to Almaty airport prior to the crash. The airline said its carrier hit the ground about five kilometers (3.1 miles) short of the airport.

Almaty's deputy mayor, Maulen Mukashev, said that the plane was a Canadian-built Bombardier Challenger CRJ-200, one of the models operated by the small airline.

The plane was flying from the northern city of Kokshetau to Almaty.

Two planes have crashed in the central Asian country in a little over one month. On December 25, a Soviet-era Antonov An-72 military plane went down near the southern city of Shymkent during a violent snowstorm; 27 people died in that incident. Prosecutors believe technical problems, bad weather and human error all played a role in the crash.

msh/ipj (AFP, AP, Reuters)