A Philippine Air Force Lockheed C-130 carrying troops crashed and caught alight in one of the country’s southern islands on Sunday, killing at least 45 people, in the Philippines’ worst military air disaster in nearly three decades.
The C-130 Hercules transport aircraft was flying from Laguindingan to Jolo carrying 92 people in total, most of whom were military personnel, when it overshot the runway at Jolo Airport in the province of Sulu.
According to authorities, the aircraft, registration 5125, failed to touch down, and struggled to regain enough power and height before it crashed into trees and caught on fire at nearby Patikul.
The Philippines’ Department of National Defence announced that 45 people had been killed in the incident so far, including three civilians who were on the ground at the time of the crash.
A further 53 have been injured and are currently being treated for injuries, including four civilians, while five military personnel are still currently unaccounted for and missing.
According to the Joint Task Force Sulu, some individuals on the plane were seen jumping from the aircraft moments before it crashed, however it is not known if these people are among the injured or killed.
“A number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground, sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” the authority said in a statement.
The plan was carrying troops bound for counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militants, namely Abu Sayyaf, a small Islamist group considered by the Philippine government to be a terrorist organisation.
“[The troops onboard] were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” said Commander William Gonzales of Joint Task Force Sulu. “These individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today.”
As it stands, there appears to be no sign of any attack made on the plane, according to military spokesman, however the incident will be properly investigated, following the rescue mission.
“We remain to be hopeful that we could find more survivors,” Commander Gonzales said.
Authorities are currently attempting to locate the plane’s black box.
Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said he has “ordered a full investigation to get to the bottom of the incident, as soon as the rescue and recovery operation is completed”.
The incident marks the third military aircraft crash in the Philippines this year, and comes just one month after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a night training flight, killing six people onboard.