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15 killed, dozens injured as plane crashes in Kazakhstan

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Almaty (Kazakhstan) (AFP)

At least 15 people died and dozens were injured on Friday when a passenger plane carrying 100 people crashed shortly after takeoff from Kazakhstan's largest city and slammed into a house, state media reported.

The Fokker 100 Bek Air plane disappeared from the radar minutes after it took off from Almaty airport at 7.05 am (01:05 GMT) on its way to the capital Nur-Sultan with 95 passengers and five crew members, the airport authority said in a statement.

It hit a concrete barrier and then slammed into a two-storey building. The reason for the crash, which took place near the city's boundary northeast of the airport, was not immediately known.

A video released by the Central Asian country's emergencies committee showed the plane split into pieces with its nose crushed into a partially collapsed house, as rescue crews worked to pull people from the wreckage.

Rescue workers could be seen reaching into the windows of the shattered cockpit, as scores of emergency staff rushed to the site.

The head of Almaty's health service, Tleukhan Abildayev, said 14 people died at the scene while a young woman died later in hospital.

A total of 66 people were injured, of whom 50 were hospitalised, with 12 in an "extremely serious condition", he said.

Nine children were among the injured.

Kazakhstan responded to the crash by grounding the model, which makes up the whole of the Bek Air fleet

No one was inside the house that the plane crashed into, Khabar state television reported.

- Those responsible 'will be punished' -

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pledged to provide families of the victims with compensation and tweeted that those responsible "will be severely punished in accordance with the law."

Tokayev also said that a government commission had been set up to investigate the circumstances surrounding the tragedy.

The interior ministry said it had launched a criminal investigation into the incident over violations of air transport safety rules.

The plane was 23 years old and had passed safety checks in May, Kazakh authorities said.

The industry ministry said in a statement that the Fokker-100 model, which is no longer manufactured, would be grounded until the cause of the accident became clear.

Bek Air describes itself on its website as Kazakhstan's first low-cost airline.

In March 2016, a Bek Air Fokker-100 plane with 116 passengers made an emergency landing at the capital's international airport after its landing gear failed to deploy. None of the passengers or five-member crew were injured.

Swiss regional carrier Helvetic Airways phased out its Dutch-built Fokker-100s earlier this year after 15 years of service.

Informburo.kz news agency said one of its journalists, Dana Kruglova, was among the dead.

"(Her) trip had been uncertain, since she had work meetings planned in Almaty. But Dana wanted to celebrate the New Year with her parents in Nur-Sultan and decided to take this flight," the news agency said.

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