TEHRAN, Iran – A Russian-made Iranian passenger plane carrying 157 passengers and 13 crew crash landed in northeastern Iran on Sunday injuring at least 46 people, state television reported.
The Taban Air plane caught fire upon landing at Mashhad airport at 7:20 a.m. local time (0350 GMT). The injured have been taken to hospitals in Mashhad, the report added.
Jafarzadeh said the Tupolev plane initially took off from Abadan airport in southwestern Iran Saturday evening but landed in Isfahan, central Iran, because of bad weather in Mashhad, its destination.
"The plane took off from Isfahan airport at 5:35 a.m. local time Sunday ... Despite bad weather and minimum visibility, the pilot made an emergency landing because a passenger was ill. But the incident then happened during landing," he said.
Jafarzadeh said the plane was seriously damaged. State television added that part of the aircraft had burned and the left wing and undercarriage were torn off.
Iran has about a dozen Soviet-built Tupolev airliners.
Iran has seen numerous crashes in recent years and its airlines have been plagued by maintenance problems, partly because they are chronically cashed-strapped and cannot buy new planes.
Iranian officials often blame U.S. sanctions that prevent it from refurbishing the American aircraft bought before the 1979 Islamic revolution and also make it difficult to get spare parts or planes from Europe.
The country has come to rely on Russian aircraft, many of them Soviet-era planes that are harder to get parts for since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Last July, a Tupolev passenger plane carrying 168 people crashed shortly after takeoff, nose-diving into a field and killing all those aboard. The Caspian Airlines Tu-154M jet had taken off from Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport and was headed to the Armenian capital Yerevan.
In February 2006, another Tu-154 operated by Iran Airtour, which is affiliated with Iran's national carrier, crashed during landing in Tehran, killing 29 of the 148 people on board. Another Airtour Tupolev crashed in 2002 in the mountains of western Iran, killing all 199 on board.
Iran's worst crash came in February 2003 and also involved a Russian-made Ilyushin that plowed into the mountains of southeastern Iran, killing 302 people — mostly members of the elite Revolutionary Guard.