A Russian warplane crashed Monday into a residential area in a Russian city on the Sea of Azov after suffering engine failure, killing at least four people and igniting a massive blaze that engulfed several floors of a nine-story apartment building. A Su-34 bomber came down in the port city of Yeysk after one of its engines caught fire during takeoff for a training mission, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said both crew members had bailed out safely, but the plane crashed into a residential area, causing a fire as tons of fuel exploded on impact.
Authorities said at least four residents were killed, six were missing and 25 others were injured, including eight people who were in grave condition. The authorities reserved emergency rooms at local hospitals and scrambled medical aircraft. At least 17 apartments were affected by the fire, and about 100 residents were evacuated.
The Kremlin said Russian President Vladimir Putin was informed about the crash and ordered the ministers of health and emergencies along with the local governor to head to the site. Yeysk, a city of 90,000, is home to a big Russian air base.
Several hours after the crash, regional Gov. Veniamin Kondratyev said that emergency services managed to contain the fire, making the evacuation of residents in adjacent buildings unnecessary.
Surveillance cam videos posted on Russian messaging app channels showed a plane exploding in a giant fireball. Other videos showed an apartment building engulfed by flames and loud bangs from apparent detonation of the warplane’s weapons.
Oksana, a local resident who declined to give her last name, told the AFP news service the area was cordoned off.
“There could be an explosion. Everything is burning inside. There is smoke,” she told AFP.
She said she was stuck in traffic when she heard the news.
“I’m in shock obviously. My child was alone at home. We already used to go to sleep with fear every day — Mariupol is just across from us,” she said.
The Su-34 is a supersonic twin-engine bomber equipped with sophisticated sensors and weapons that has been a key strike component of the Russian air force. The aircraft has seen wide use during the war in Syria and the fighting in Ukraine.
Monday’s accident marked the 10th reported non-combat crash of a Russian warplane since Moscow sent its troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24. Military experts noted that as the number of military flights increased sharply during the fighting, so did the crashes.
AFP contributed reporting.