Reports of some survivors after plane with more than 80 people on board went down during flight from Bolivia to Medellin
A plane carrying more than 80 people, including members of the Brazilian football team Chapecoense, has crashed in Colombia.
There has been no confirmation of casualties. There were 72 passengers and nine crew on board. Reports say there were at least six survivors, including the Chapecoense goalkeeper, Alan Ruschel.
The team was scheduled to play a Copa Sudamerica finals match against Atlético Nacional on Wednesday in Medellin.
José Maria Córdova international airport in Medellin has confirmed that a charter aircraft with squad members and journalists on board was involved in a serious emergency on its way to the city.
The plane – a British Aerospace 146 short-haul aircraft – is believed to have started its journey in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at 3.35pm local time. It made a stop in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, a bustling economic hub in eastern Bolivia, later that day before setting off for Colombia.
The statement from José Maria Córdova airport said that at 10pm a plane travelling from Santa Cruz had declared an emergency because of electrical failures between the municipalities of La Ceja and La Unión in Colombia.
“At the moment we know that the disaster happened in Cerro Gordo in the municipality of La Unión and that there were 72 passengers and nine crew aboard, including the football team Chapocoense Real. There are reported to be six survivors,” the statement read.
Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper said there were at least 22 players from the squad on board. It reported that a 23rd player, whom the newspaper did not name, had been supposed to travel but did not. There were also reported to be 22 football journalists from Brazil on the flight.
Medellin’s mayor, Federico Gutierrez, confirmed the possibility of survivors.
“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” Gutierrez told Blu Radio on his way to the crash site. It is not clear what caused the crash although it appears that the weather was bad in the area.
According to the local news site mioriente.com, La Unión’s fire chief has said that at least 10 people were being tended to at the accident site. A state of emergency has been declared in the area and two Colombian air force helicopters have begun searching for more survivors.
Elkin Ospina, the mayor of nearby La Ceja, said that 30 police, fire and Red Cross vehicles had been deployed to the site.
Luis Fernando Rodríguez, medical chief of the San Juan de Dios clinic in La Ceja, told mioriente.com: “We are trying to coordinate with other hospitals in the area to see what our capacity is given the complexity and the volume of patients who could arrive.”
Authorities have appealed for people to stay away from the crash site and allow rescue workers to move freely.
As news of the crash circulated across South America, football fans and clubs paid tribute on Twitter and Facebook.
Chapecoense, based in the city of Chapecó in the state of Santa Catarina, play in Brazil’s premier division, Série A. The club was founded in 1973 and first won promotion to the TOP flight in 2014.
As of last weekend, when they fell to a 1-0 defeat away at already-crowned champions Palmeiras, Chapecoense were ninth in the TABLE after 37 games played. They were scheduled to conclude the domestic season against Atlético Mineiro on Sunday.
The Copa Sudamericana is South America’s second-tier club competition, one rung below the Copa Libertadores. The winner of the Copa Sudamericana gains automatic entry into next season’s Copa Libertadores, the centrepiece of the continent’s football calendar.
The final, like each round of the tournament, is a two-legged tie, consisting of a home and an away fixture. Colombia’s Atlético Nacional were due to visit Brazil for the return leg on 7 December.
Chapecoense had already travelled to Argentina twice, beating Independiente and San Lorenzo, and Colombia once, where they lost to Junior 1-0 but progressed on aggregate in the quarter-finals.