A plane with 81 people on board, including players from a Brazilian football team heading to Colombia for a regional tournament final, has crashed on its way to Medellin’s airport.
In a statement posted on Twitter, the Jose Maria Cordova International Airport said at least six survivors had been rescued at the site, which could only be accessed by land due to harsh weather conditions.
The Chapocoense football team was among 72 passengers and nine crew on board the aircraft.
Al Jazeera’s Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Bogota, said the flight crashed in a mountainous region.
“There have been heavy rains day in and day out in the last week or so. That could have played a big role in the crash, but that is still unconfirmed,” he said.
Medillin’s Mayor Federico Gutierrez said he was on his way to the region where the chartered aircraft was believed to have crashed shortly before midnight local time.
“It’s a tragedy of huge proportions,” he told Blu Radio.
It was not clear what caused the crash of the aircraft, a British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, but, as reported by Rampietti, Colombia had been hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms in recent hours.
Data from the FlightRadar24.com website showed the plane circling before eventually disappearing south of Rio Negro.
Medellin’s airport confirmed that the aircraft, which made a stop in Bolivia, was transporting the first division Chapecoense team from southern Brazil.
|The first division Chapecoense football team was on the flight en route to Colombia [Whitaker/Reuters]|
The team was scheduled to play Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.
A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed players preparing for the flight earlier on Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.
After the incident, the team published an update on Facebook in which it said players, staff, journalists and guests were among those travelling with the club on the plane.
The team, from the small city of Chapeco, joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it to the Copa Sudamericana finals last week by defeating Argentina’s legendary San Lorenzo squad.
Al Jazeera senior sports presenter Andy Richardson described the team as “a rare model of organisational success” that was “lauded as an example of how to run a club”.
He added: “They were seen as a real success story of the last three or four years in Brazilian football.”
In a statement released on Tuesday, CONMEBOL, the South American Football Federation, announced it had suspended all activities until further notice.
Source: Al Jazeera News and Agencies