Defence Secretary, Delfin Lorenzana, said in a statement that ninety-two people, most of them army personnel, were on board the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft when the accident happened as it tried to land on Jolo island in Sulu province around midday.
“So far 40 wounded and injured were rescued and 17 bodies recovered,” Lorenzana said.
Photos taken by local media outlet Pondohan TV and posted on their Facebook page showed the wrecked body of the plane engulfed in flames. A plume of thick black smoke rose above houses located near the crash site.
Armed Forces Chief General Cirilito Sobejana said the aircraft had been carrying troops from Cagayan de Oro on the southern island of Mindanao when it “missed the runway” as it tried to land on Jolo.
The plane tried to “regain power but didn’t make it,” he told local media, describing the accident as “very unfortunate”.
“Responders are at the site now, we are praying we can save more lives,” Sobejana told AFP.
Sobejana said the 40 rescued were being treated at the nearby 11th Infantry Division hospital.
Air Force spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Maynard Mariano said the cause of the crash would be investigated.
“We are on rescue mode right now,” Mariano told AFP.
Many of the passengers had recently graduated from basic military training and were being deployed to the restive island as part of a joint task force fighting terrorism in the Muslim-majority region.
The military has a heavy presence in the southern Philippines where militant groups, including the kidnap-for-ransom outfit Abu Sayyaf, operate.
C-130 aircraft, the work horses of the air force, are used to transport troops and supplies. They are also often deployed to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
The accident comes after a Black Hawk helicopter crashed last month during a night-time training flight, killing all six on board.
Three pilots and three airmen died when their S70-i went down near the Crow Valley training range north of Manila, prompting the grounding of the entire fleet.
The country ordered 16 of the multi-role aircraft from a Polish firm that made them under licence from the Sikorsky division of US defence manufacturer Lockheed Martin.
Eleven have been delivered since late 2020.
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