Cargo jet crash kills dozens in Kyrgyzstan village

A cargo jet crashed into a village near Kyrgyzstan's main airport on Monday, killing dozens of people on the ground.

The Boeing 747 had been trying to land in intermittent dense fog, local officials told NBC News. The aircraft had five people on board.

Tolgonai Stamaliyeva, a government spokesperson, said the plane destroyed more than 20 houses.

Plumes of smoke rose above the crash site, with some buildings razed to the ground and others pierced by parts of the plane.

The torn-off tail assembly, rotated upside down, towered above a one-story house.

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Pensioner Anarkan Kozhoyeva, 65, who lives near the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Manas airport, speaks outside the capital city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, January 16, 2017. When Kozhoyeva returned home on Monday morning, her house was the only one still standing on her street in Dachi Suu village, after all others were levelled by a jumbo jet which crashed and killed entire families in their sleep. "I am alone now, all of my neighbours are dead," said Kozhoyeva. "Our house was just 20 metres away" from the destroyed area. "I am terrified, I don't know how to live on," she said, weeping. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov SEARCH "KYRGYZSTAN CRASH" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Plane debris is seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Rescue teams are seen are seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Plane debris is seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Rescue teams are seen are seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Rescue teams are seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
ATTENTION EDITORS - VISUAL COVERAGE OF SCENES OF INJURY OR DEATHMembers of rescue teams are seen next to body bags with victims at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
A member of a rescue team walks at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
A policeman guards an area at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Rescue teams are seen at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Kyrgyzstan's Manas airport outside Bishkek, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Members of a rescue team work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Manas airport outside the capital city Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Members of a rescue team and investigators work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Manas airport outside the capital city Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Members of a rescue team and investigators work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Manas airport outside the capital city Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
Members of a rescue team work at the crash site of a Turkish cargo jet near Manas airport outside the capital city Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, January 16, 2017. REUTERS/Vladimir Pirogov
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More than 1,000 rescue workers were at the scene by late morning.

A dozen body bags were laid out on the ground in the yard of one of the homes. A car parked nearby was mangled, and a fridge lying open nearby.

Reports of the death toll on Monday ranged from 37 people according to emergency officials in the Central Asian nation, to 31 reported by the presidential press office. Fifteen people — including six children — were hospitalized.

Locals said they had initially thought the area was struck by an earthquake.

"I woke up because of a bright red light outside," Baktygul Kurbatova, who was slightly injured, told local television. "I couldn't understand what was happening. It turns out the ceiling and the walls were crashing on us. I was so scared but I managed to cover my son's face with my hands so that debris would not fall on him."

Authorities said the plane was supposed to make a stopover at Manas airport, near the capital city Bishkek, on its way from Hong Kong to Istanbul. It crashed when trying to land in poor visibility at 7:31 a.m. local time (8:31 pm ET).

Kyrgyzstan's transport ministry initially identified the plane as a Turkish Airlines Boeing 747-400, but the company said it belonged to another Turkish firm, ACT Airlines.

"Our condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in the tragic incident involving an ACT Airlines aircraft in Kyrgyzstan," Turkish Airlines said on its Twitter account.

One of the two flight recorders has been recovered at the scene, the office of the Kyrgyz prime minister said on Monday afternoon.

Manas airport spokeswoman Alia Kurbanova denied that conditions were too poor to land safely.

"We've had 11 planes land that night. There was fog on and off, but planes were landing," Kurbanova said by phone.

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