MANILA, Philippines — Officials said a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane carrying troops crashed in a southern region Sunday after missing the runway, killing at least 17 military members and rescuing at least 40 others from the flaming wreckage.
Rescue and recovery activities, according to Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, are still underway. He claimed the plane had 92 passengers on board, including three pilots and five crew members, with the remainder being army soldiers.
The Lockheed C-130 Hercules was one of two ex-US Air Force planes handed over to the Philippines this year as part of military aid. According to military chief of staff Gen. Cirilito Sobejana, the plane crashed soon before noon Sunday in Bangkal hamlet in the hilly town of Patikul in Sulu province.
At least 40 passengers on board were taken to a hospital, according to him, and forces were attempting to save the remainder.
According to Sobejana, the jet was transferring troops from southern Cagayan de Oro City for deployment in Sulu. For decades, government forces have fought Abu Sayyaf insurgents in the largely Muslim region of Sulu.
The cause of the collision was not immediately known. Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan, the regional military commander, said it was doubtful that the plane was shot down, citing witnesses who claimed it looked to have overshot the runway.
Sobejana told reporters, “It’s extremely sad.” “The plane missed the runway and attempted to restore power, but it was unable, and it crashed.”
Initial photos revealed that the weather in Sulu appeared to be fair, despite rainfall in other regions of the Philippines owing to an incoming tropical depression. The airport in Jolo, Sulu’s capital, lies a few kilometers (miles) from a hilly terrain where forces have fought the Abu Sayyaf. Some extremists have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
The Jolo runway is shorter than most others in the nation, according to an air force officer, making it more difficult for pilots to modify if an aircraft misses the landing area. Because of a lack of permission to talk publicly, the official, who has flown military planes to and from Jolo numerous times, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Abu Sayyaf has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States and the Philippines, respectively, for bombings, ransom kidnappings, and beheadings. Years of government offensives have greatly degraded it, yet it still poses a threat.