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 on Monday, according to Russian officials and state media.
The incident was caused by one of the engines catching fire, state news agency RIA Novosti reported, citing 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 place where the Su-34 crashed in the courtyard of one of the residential blocks, the plane’s fuel ignited, the ministry said in a statement to RIA.
The terms of the ejected pilots are not clear.
Fourteen bodies, including those of three children, were removed from the debris on Tuesday, according to Russian officials. Earlier reports in state media 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 city on the shores of Lake Azov and is separated from occupied Russian territory in southern Ukraine by a narrow stretch of sea.
Pictures and videos of the aftermath of the crash showed billowing smoke and flames in the residential area. One building, believed to be housing hundreds of people, was later engulfed in flames, officials said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the 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 launched 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 tore through more than a dozen apartments in the multi-story building, was later extinguished, local officials said.
About 100 people were evacuated from the building on Monday, local security services told TASS.
The Russian Emergencies Ministry told RIA that the area of the fire caused by the crash was 2,000 square meters wide.
According to the head of the affected district of Yeysk, Roman Bublik, residents of a nine-story building that caught fire will receive all necessary support.
Earlier on Monday, an eyewitness told Russian state media TASS about the chaos that ensued after the crash: “Planes crashed in our city … Ambulances and firefighters are coming from all over the city, helicopters are in the air,” the eyewitness said.