Cuba confirms 110 killed in country's deadliest plane crash since 1989

HAVANA, May 19 (Reuters) - Cuban authorities said the fiery crash of an aging Boeing passenger jet on Friday shortly after takeoff from Havana had killed 110 people, 99 of whom were Cuban, making it the Caribbean island's deadliest air disaster in nearly 30 years.

Flags flew at half-mast in Cuba on Saturday marking the start of two days of national mourning while authorities worked to identify the crash victims. Fifteen have been identified so far.

Authorities told a news conference on Saturday at Havana airport that three of the passengers killed on the domestic flight to Holguin on Friday were foreign tourists - two Argentines and a Mexican - while another two were Sahrawi residents in Cuba.

The six Mexican crew members aboard the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased by Cuban flagship carrier Cubana from a small Mexican company called Damojh, were also killed.

See photos from the scene: 

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Plane crashes near Jose Marti Airport in Havana, Cuba
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Plane crashes near Jose Marti Airport in Havana, Cuba
Emergency personnel work at the site of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (2-R, in khaki) is pictured at the site of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency personnel work at the site of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (L) arrives at the site of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency and rescue personnel are pictured while working at the site of the accident, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Forensic personnel are pictured at the site of the accident, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Mercedes Lopez Acea (C), the First Secretary of the Communist party in Havana arrives at the site of the accident, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency and rescue personnel, are pictured while working at the site of the accident, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by YAMIL LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
The site of the accident is cordoned off, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
#Breaking: Several witnesses tell me they saw bodies at wreckage site. Not much left of plane, they say. Cell phone… https://t.co/bCw3qnNO28
Emergency personnel at seen at the site of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Adalberto ROQUE / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
Picture taken at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 104 passengers on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Emergency services arrive at the scene of the accident after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways passenger plane with 113 people on board crashed on shortly after taking off from Havana's airport, state media reported. The Boeing 737 operated by Cubana de Aviacion crashed 'near the international airport,' state agency Prensa Latina reported. Airport sources said the jetliner was heading from the capital to the eastern city of Holguin. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
#Breaking: Just confirmed it’s a Blue Panorama plane rented by #Cubana, #Cuba’s national airline, headed to Holguin… https://t.co/qO5HCVs3tS
#Breaking: getting new info #plane #crashed either at high school campus or near it. It’s a national flight headed… https://t.co/hkkT0h64EK
#Breaking: Working to confirm but initial reports says #plane #crash site in #Boyeros neighborhood near José Marti… https://t.co/8rdwntFstW
#Breaking: #Cuban state run TV says @Boeing 737 crashed shortly after take off from José Marti International airpor… https://t.co/esr4jOXkIy
#UPDATE Cuban ambassador says 104 passengers on-board plane that crashed after takeoff from Havana… https://t.co/0tqDZdlr5X
CNN: Reports from Havana’s Jose Marti airport that there was a huge fireball after a Cubana airliner crashed during… https://t.co/aQ09Je9hBF
Our thoughts and prayers go out to our Caribbean neighbours in Cuba after a Boeing 737 passenger jet crashed this a… https://t.co/8RsZ0qWzlc
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Three Cuban women survived the crash, but are still in critical condition, said the head of the hospital where they are being attended.

Distressed relatives cried and hugged one another outside the morgue, where they gave information on loved ones to authorities to aid in the identification process.

"This is a very unexpected death, she didn't deserve it. My grandmother was a strong person," said Katherine Lucia Martinez, an 18-year-old student, bursting into tears and clinging to her father.

Her 60-year-old grandmother was among the dead, and she was waiting with other relatives of the deceased at a Havana hotel for an update from authorities.

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Loved ones mourn lives lost in Cuba plane crash
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Loved ones mourn lives lost in Cuba plane crash
The relative of a victim of the plane that crashed shortly after taking off from Jose Marti airport killing 107 people, cries at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Havana, on May 19, 2018. - Cuba begins two days of national mourning Saturday for victims of the crash of a state airways plane that killed all but three of its 110 passengers and crew. President Miguel Diaz-Canel said an investigation was under way into Friday's crash of the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased to the national carrier Cubana de Aviacion by a Mexican company. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of the victims of the plane that crashed shortly after taking off from Jose Marti airport killing 107 people, remain outisde the Institute of Legal Medicine in Havana, on May 19, 2018. - Cuba begins two days of national mourning Saturday for victims of the crash of a state airways plane that killed all but three of its 110 passengers and crew. President Miguel Diaz-Canel said an investigation was under way into Friday's crash of the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased to the national carrier Cubana de Aviacion by a Mexican company. (Photo by Yamil LAGE / AFP) (Photo credit should read YAMIL LAGE/AFP/Getty Images)
HAVANA - MAY 19: Cubans anter the Institute of Forensic Medicine, where the remains of the victims of the Boeing 737 aircraft crash are being investigated, on May 19, 2018, in Havana, Cuba. The plane, which was on its way to Holguin some 700 km east of Havana, with over 100 people aboard, had crashed shortly after take-off from the Jose Marti airport, on May 18, 2018, leaving only 3 survivors. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)
A relative of one of the victims of a plane crash is pictured at Holguin airport, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti international airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways plane heading to Holguin, with 110 passengers and crew on board crashed shortly after taking off from Havana Friday, leaving a mass of twisted and smoldering fuselage, as the country's president warned many people were feared dead. Cuban state media reported that three people had been pulled alive from the mangled wreckage and were in critical condition in hospital. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
The first secretary of Communist Party in the Cuban city of Holguin, Luis Antonio Torres Iribar (L), speaks with relatives of the victims of a plane crash, at Holguin airport, after a Cubana de Aviacion aircraft crashed after taking off from Havana's Jose Marti international airport on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways plane heading to Holguin, with 110 passengers and crew on board crashed shortly after taking off from Havana Friday, leaving a mass of twisted and smoldering fuselage, as the country's president warned many people were feared dead. Cuban state media reported that three people had been pulled alive from the mangled wreckage and were in critical condition in hospital. (Photo by STR / AFP) (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of a crew member of a jetliner that crashed in Cuba arrive at Mexican-based airline Global Air's office in Mexico City, on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways plane leased to Global Air crashed shortly after taking off from Havana Friday, leaving a mass of twisted and smoldering fuselage, as the country's president warned many people were feared dead of the 104 passengers and six Mexican crew it carried. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP) (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
A relative of a crew member of a jetliner that crashed in Cuba, is pictured inside Mexican-based airline Global Air's office in Mexico City, on May 18, 2018. - A Cuban state airways plane leased to Global Air crashed shortly after taking off from Havana Friday, leaving a mass of twisted and smoldering fuselage, as the country's president warned many people were feared dead of the 104 passengers and six Mexican crew it carried. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO / AFP) (Photo credit should read PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)
Relatives of victims of the Boeing 737 plane that crashed after taking off from Havana's main airport yesterday, react at a hotel in Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Relatives of victims of the Boeing 737 plane that crashed after taking off from Havana's main airport yesterday react as they leave the Legal Medical Institute in Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Fernando Medina
Relatives of victims of the Boeing 737 plane that crashed after taking off from Havana's main airport yesterday, arrive to a hotel in Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
Relatives of victims of the Boeing 737 plane that crashed after taking off from Havana's main airport yesterday, arrive to a hotel in Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini
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President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday visited the morgue, a day after reviewing the site of the crash, the first big test of his presidency after taking the reins from Raul Castro last month.

Cuban investigators worked overnight at the site of the crash, an agricultural area some 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, sifting through the burned wreckage for evidence, officials said.

So far they have recovered the cockpit voice recorder in "good condition," the Cuban Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo said on Saturday. They are still looking for the flight data recorder.

"The plane was on fire, it flipped and then nosedived," said Marino Perez Alvaredo, a farmer who works near where the plane crashed.

The Mexican transport department said on its website: "During takeoff (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dove to the ground."

Mexico also said it would send a team of investigators from its Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics on Saturday.

Most aircraft accidents take months to investigate.

The crash was the worst in Cuba since a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62M passenger plane crashed near Havana in 1989 killing all 126 people on board and another 14 on the ground.

"For the love of god, I never thought I would see this," said Caridad Miranda, 45, whose sister and niece died in the crash. "They should have checked that plane well." (Reporting by Sarah Marsh; editing by Chris Reese and G Crosse)

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