The ACT Airlines flight from Hong Kong to Istanbul via Bishkek crashed as it came into land under bad weather conditions at 7.31 a.m. local time (0131GMT), Deputy Prime Minister Muhammetkaly Abulgaziev said.
Four Turkish crew members were among the dead, Turkey’s Transport Ministry said. Although Abulgaziev gave the overall death toll as 32, the Health Ministry said 31 were killed in the crash, adding that four people were currently receiving hospital treatment.
Russian news agency TASS, citing the Health Ministry, reported the death toll had risen to 37 after the plane crashed into a “dacha community” as it attempted to land at Manas International Airport.
ACT Airlines operates under the name myCARGO. Based in Istanbul, it flies eight Boeing B747 transport aircraft, according to the company website. The firm is 49 per cent-owned by China’s HNA Group with the remainder belonging to Turkish interests.
In a statement, the company said it was “deeply saddened” by the accident. “The cause of the accident is unknown at this time and further details will be provided as they become available,” it added.
The statement identified the aircraft with the registration number TC-MCL. According to the firm’s website, the plane was manufactured in 2003.
The Turkish Transport Ministry said two accident investigation experts had been sent to Bishkek. Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan telephoned his Kyrgyz counterpart to offer support, the ministry added.
The airport authorities said the airport had been closed until 4.00 p.m. local time (1000GMT) and said staff were working with the Emergency Situations Ministry.
Tuesday was declared a day of mourning by the government.
Turkish Airlines issued a statement to clarify the aircraft was not operated or staffed by its personnel.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent condolences to Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev, the Kremlin said in a statement. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also passed on condolences and his “deep sorrow” over the tragedy.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke to his Kyrgyz counterpart Erlan Abdyldaev to promise support, a diplomatic official said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.