At least 14 people have died after a Russian SU-34 fighter jet crashed into a residential building in the western city of Yeysk during a training flight Monday, according to Russian officials and state media.
The incident was due to one of the engines catching fire, reported state-run news agency RIA Novosti, which cited Russia’s Defense Ministry.
“According to the report of the ejected pilots, the cause of the plane crash was the ignition of one of the engines during take-off. At the site of the crash of the Su-34 in the courtyard of one of the residential quarters, the plane’s fuel ignited,” the ministry said in a statement to RIA.
The conditions of the ejected pilots are not clear.
Fourteen bodies, including those of three children, were removed from the debris as of Tuesday, according to Russian officials. Earlier state media reports said at least 25 people were injured.
“The tragedy claimed the lives of 14 people. I offer my sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims,” the governor of the Krasnodar Krai region, Veniamin Kondratiev, said in a statement on his Telegram channel on Tuesday.
Yeysk is a port town on the shore of the Sea of Azov and is separated from occupied Russian territory in southern Ukraine by a narrow stretch of the sea.
Images and videos of the crash’s aftermath showed smoke billowing and fire blazing in the residential area. A building, believed to house hundreds of people, was later engulfed in flames, say officials.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told authorities to provide all necessary assistance to the victims of the crash, the Kremlin said in a statement, adding that Putin has received reports from the ministers and the head of the region on the situation.
Officials have opened an investigation into the incident, according to the prosecutor’s office of the Krasnodar Krai region and the military prosecutor’s office of the Southern Military District.
The fire, which raged through more than a dozen apartments in the multistory building, was later contained, said local officials.
About 100 people were evacuated from the building on Monday, local government security services told TASS.
The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations told RIA the area of the fire caused by the crash was 2,000 square meters wide.
According to the head of the affected district in Yeysk, Roman Bublik, the residents of a nine-story building that caught fire will be provided with all the necessary support.
Earlier on Monday, an eyewitness told Russian state media TASS of the chaos that ensued after the crash: “Plane crashed in our city … Ambulances and firefighters are coming from all over the city, helicopters are in the air,” said the eyewitness.”