A Russian passenger plane has exploded in a fireball during an emergency landing, killing 41 people.
A Sukhoi Superjet 100 crash-landed at Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport on Sunday 6.30pm local time (1.30am AEST) shortly after takeoff.
“There were 78 people including crew members on board the plane,” the Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding that the plane had been flying to the northwestern Russian city of Murmansk.
“According to the updated info which the investigation has as of now, 37 people survived.”
A spokeswoman for the investigators confirmed the death toll was 41 and included two children and one crew member.
Another 11 people were injured, Dmitry Matveyev, the Moscow region’s health minister said. Three of them had been hospitalised but they were not in a serious condition, he added.
The company has listed the names of survivors on their website.
No official cause was yet been given for the incident although some surviving passengers spoke of a lightning strike.
The Interfax news agency cited an unnamed “informed source” as saying the evacuation of the plane had been delayed by some passengers insisting on collecting their hand luggage first.
Geoffrey Thomas, an aviation writer and author of Airline Ratings, said it is “extremely likely” the death toll would have been lower had the plane been evacuated quicker.
“What is really concerning here is if you look at the vision you can see them carrying their bags … and there’s passengers inside taking videos,” Mr Thomas told 7News.
“Clearly this is another situation where passengers getting their bags off, instead of just getting off the airplane, has tragically caused… people to lose their lives.
“It’s just a real tragedy that this has happened, and it’s been a problem industry has been looking at for some time, with passengers not obeying crew instructions to get off the airplane as quickly as possible.”
In a statement shared by Aeroflot, the aircraft was evacuated in 55 seconds, “compared to the industry norm of 90 seconds”.
The captain was the last to leave the burning aircraft.
“We took off and then lightning struck the plane,” the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily cited one surviving passenger, Pyotr Egorov, as saying.
“The plane turned back and there was a hard landing. We were so scared we almost lost consciousness. The plane jumped down the landing strip like a grasshopper and then caught fire on the ground.”
Люди выпрыгивают по надувным трапам из горящего в Шереметьево самолета Sukhoi Superjet 100 pic.twitter.com/rswf7ktTAA
— Лента.ру (@lentaruofficial) May 5, 2019
Television footage showed the jet bouncing along the tarmac before the rear part of the plane suddenly bursts into flames.
Video showed desperate passengers on board SU 1492 leaping out of the plane onto inflatable evacuation slides and staggering across the airport’s tarmac and grass, some holding luggage.
Witness Alyona Osokina said she was inside the terminal when she suddenly saw a plane on fire rushing along the runway.
“The blaze was devouring the plane,” she told Rain TV.
Osokina said that fire engines had arrived quickly but could not immediately put out the blaze.
“This horror and tragedy happened before our eyes,” she said, adding that those who managed to flee the plane then walked calmly towards the airport.
“I believe they were in a state of deep shock.”