PALAIOCHORI, Greece — An Antonov cargo plane of a Ukrainian airline crashed Saturday near the town of Kavala in northern Greece, authorities said. Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions two hours after the crash.
Greek civil aviation authorities said the flight was en route from Serbia to Jordan. The An-12, a Soviet-built turboprop aircraft, was operated by freighter Meridian.
Greek media reported that the plane had eight people on board and that it had 12 tons of “hazardous materials”, mainly explosives, on board. But local officials said they had no specific information about the cargo and gave different numbers of people on board.
As a precaution, because of a strong odor coming from the scene of the accident, a coordinating committee, made up of officials from the municipality, police and fire brigade, told the inhabitants of the two places closest to the scene of the accident to keeping their windows closed all night, to their houses and wearing masks. Authorities say they don’t know if there were any dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those in batteries.
The Greek Civil Aviation Authority said the pilot managed to warn the authorities of a problem in one of the aircraft’s engines and that he was given the choice of landing at the airports of Thessaloniki or Kavala, and he chose Kavala, which was closer , and said to make an emergency landing.
Communication with the aircraft ceased almost immediately afterwards. The plane crashed about 25 miles west of the airport.
“Until a few minutes ago, we heard explosions,” Filippos Anastassiadis, mayor of Paggaio Municipality, told the Associated Press just over an hour after the accident. “I’m about 300 meters from the crash site.”
One of Anastassiadis’ representatives told the state broadcaster ERT that explosions had been heard for two hours after the crash.
Local residents reported seeing a fireball and a plume of smoke before the crash.
ERT reported that military and explosives experts were on their way to the site, located on farmland near two villages that are part of Paggaio Municipality. But they are not expected to start working before dawn. Experts from the Greek Atomic Energy Commission will join them.
The fire brigade has cordoned off the area within a radius of approximately 400 meters. The cordoned off area will be expanded at dawn, the fire service said.