‘Dangerous chemicals’ fears after cargo plane crashes in northern Greece

Experts were poised to search the site of a plane crash in northern Greece early on Sunday to determine what kind of cargo it was carrying.

he Antonov An-12 cargo plane, which took off from the city of Nis in Serbia on Saturday, and was heading to Amman in Jordan, crashed shortly before 11pm local time, about 25 miles (40km) west of Kavala International Airport.

Minutes earlier, the pilot of the plane, which was operated by Ukrainian cargo carrier Meridian, had told air traffic controllers there was a problem with one of his engines and that he had to make an emergency landing. He was directed to Kavala airport but never made it.

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Debris from the Antonov cargo plane crash in Palaiochori village in northern Greece (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

The plane was a Soviet-era four-engine turboprop cargo carrier.

Greek media reported that there were eight people on the plane and it was carrying 12 tons of “dangerous materials”, mostly explosives. But local officials said they had no specific information on the cargo and provided slightly varying numbers of people on board.

Drone footage showed that small fragments were all that remained of the plane, which crashed in fields between two villages and dragged a small distance on the ground.

Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash.

A plume of white smoke was still rising from the front end of the plane on Sunday morning.

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Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Firefighters who rushed to the scene in the night were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell which they feared might be toxic.

Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, to not leave their homes and to wear masks.

Authorities said they do not know if there were dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those contained in batteries.

The teams of explosives experts which will soon operate on site will be augmented by experts from Greece’s Atomic Energy Commission, authorities said.

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