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‘Dangerous chemicals’ fears after cargo plane crashes in northern Greece

The plane, operated by a Ukrainian cargo carrier, was en route from Serbia to Jordan when it crashed, killing all eight crew members on board.

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Experts are poised to investigate the site of a plane crash in northern Greece to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remains (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Experts are poised to investigate the site of a plane crash in northern Greece to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remains (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Experts are poised to investigate the site of a plane crash in northern Greece to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remains (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Experts were investigating the site of a plane crash in northern Greece on Sunday to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remained.

A path would be cleared for forensic professionals to collect the bodies of the crew later in the day once experts had finished their work, authorities said.

The Antonov An-12 cargo plane smashed into fields between two villages late on Saturday.

Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours afterwards.

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The eight crew members, who were all Ukrainian, were killed in the crash (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

The eight crew members, who were all Ukrainian, were killed in the crash (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

AP/PA Images

The eight crew members, who were all Ukrainian, were killed in the crash (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

A plume of white smoke was still rising from the front end of the plane on Sunday morning.

Serbian defence minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told a news conference on Sunday that all eight crew members were killed.

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He said the plane was carrying 11.5 tons of Serbian-made mortar ammunition to Bangladesh, which was the buyer. It had taken off from the Serbian city of Nis and had been due to make a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

The plane was operated by Ukrainian cargo carrier Meridian, and the Ukrainian consul in Thessaloniki, who has arrived at the crash site, told local officials that the crew were all Ukrainian.

Mr Stefanovic said: “These were illuminating mortar mines and training (mines) … This flight had all necessary permissions in accordance with international regulations.”

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Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash (Ilias Kotsireas/InTime News/AP)

Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash (Ilias Kotsireas/InTime News/AP)

AP/PA Images

Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours after the crash (Ilias Kotsireas/InTime News/AP)

The plane crashed shortly before 11pm local time, about 25 miles (40km) west of Kavala International Airport.

Minutes earlier, the pilot of the plane had told air traffic controllers there was a problem with one of his engines and that he had to make an emergency landing. He was directed to Kavala airport but never made it.

The plane was a Soviet-era four-engine turboprop cargo carrier.

Drone footage showed that small fragments are all that is left of the plane.

Firefighters who rushed to the scene overnight were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell which they feared might be toxic.

Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks.

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Debris from the Antonov cargo plane crash in Palaiochori village in northern Greece (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Debris from the Antonov cargo plane crash in Palaiochori village in northern Greece (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

AP/PA Images

Debris from the Antonov cargo plane crash in Palaiochori village in northern Greece (Giannis Papanikos/AP)

Authorities said they did not know if there were dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those contained in batteries.

A special army unit that looks for nuclear, biological and chemical substances will comb the site, but is not expected to arrive before 1pm (1000 GMT).

The fire service has cordoned off the area at a radius of about 400m.

The mayor of the municipality of Paggaio, to which the two villages close to the crash belong, has banned vehicle movements on nearby roads.


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