MOSCOW (AP) — An airliner carrying 61 people from Dubai crashed early Saturday while landing in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don in strong winds, killing all aboard, Russian officials said.
All 55 passengers and six crew members had died, Igor Oder, head of the Emergencies Ministry’s southern regional operations, said in a televised briefing.
The Boeing 737-800 belonged to the budget carrier FlyDubai.
In a statement, the budget carrier confirmed that flight FZ981 crashed on landing and said that there are fatalities.
“We are doing all we can to gather information as quickly as possible. At this moment our thoughts and prayers are with our passengers and our crew who were on board the aircraft,” the airline said.
Vasily Golubev, the governor of the Rostov region some 950 kilometers (600 miles) south of Moscow, was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling local journalists that the plane crashed about 250 meters (800 feet) short of the runway. News reports said the plane caught fire after the crash.
The cause of the crash was not immediately determined, but Golubev said: “By all appearances, the cause of the air crash was the strongly gusting wind, approaching a hurricane level.”
State news agency Tass said weather data from the area indicated that winds were anywhere from 14 to 22 meters per second (30-50 miles per hour) at the time of the crash and that there was light rain.
Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the flight-tracking website Flightradar24, told The Associated Press that the plane missed approach then entered a holding pattern and tried to land again before contact was lost.
On Oct. 31, a Russian airliner blew up in the air over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 aboard. Investigators determined it was destroyed by a bomb onboard.
Russian news reports said most of those aboard were Russian tourists but there were unspecified foreigners aboard as well.
FlyDubai is a budget airline launched in 2008 by the government of Dubai, the Gulf commercial hub that is part of the seven-state United Arab Emirates federation. Its first flight took to the skies in 2009.
It shares a chairman with Dubai’s government-backed Emirates, the Middle East’s biggest airline, though the two carriers operate independently and maintain separate operations from their bases at Dubai International Airport, the region’s busiest airport.
FlyDubai’s fleet is dominated by relatively young 737-800 aircraft, the same model as the one that crashed. The airline says it operates more than 1,400 flights a week.
The airline has expanded rapidly in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Dubai is a popular tourist destination for Russian visitors, who are attracted by its beaches, shopping malls and year-round sunshine. Like other nationalities, many Russian expatriates live and work in Dubai, a city where foreigners outnumber locals more than 4-to-1.
It has been flying to the southern city of Rostov-on-Don since 2013.
FlyDubai has a good safety record. In January 2015, one of its planes was struck on the fuselage by what appeared to small-arms fire shortly before it landed in Baghdad. That flight landed safely with no major injuries reported.
Associated Press writers Adam Schreck and Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.