An Algerian military transport plane has crashed into a mountain killing 77 passengers. Only one person survived the impact, according to aviation services.
The US-built C-130 Hercules transport plane crashed at about noon yesterday near the town of Ain Kercha, 50km south-east of Constantine, the main city in eastern Algeria.
The plane carried 74 passengers and four crew members, the military said in its statement, blaming poor weather for the crash.
Earlier in the day, Algerian government officials and Algerian state media had reported that the plane had 99 passengers, making for a much higher death toll.
The lone survivor – a soldier – suffered head injuries and was treated at a nearby military facility before being flown to the military hospital in Algiers, a retired Algerian intelligence officer said.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
Civil defence officials at the snowy crash site said the plane broke into three parts and women and children were among the dead. Military transports in Algeria routinely carry not only soldiers but military families and sometimes even other civilians, if space is available.
Commander Farid Nechad, who was coordinating recovery efforts, told the press that 55 bodies had been recovered so far but that conditions at the crash site were difficult.
"Unfavourable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region were behind the crash," the defence ministry said.
The presidency announced a three-day period of mourning, calling the soldiers who had died "martyrs for the country".
Local reporters said the plane had broken into three parts. It had taken off from the southern Saharan city of Tamanrasset and was on its way to Constantine.
Algerian officials have so far not given an official death toll for the crash. If the reported death toll is confirmed, it would be the deadliest airplane crash in Algeria's history.
The Defence Ministry, meanwhile, blamed the weather.
"Unfavourable weather conditions and storms accompanied by snow in the region were behind the crash," the ministry said in a statement.