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Dozens Of People Are Killed After A Military Plane Crashes In The Philippines

NOEL KING, HOST:

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has arrived in the southern Philippines to visit soldiers after a military plane crash killed at least 50 people, including 47 military personnel and three civilians. The plane was transporting troops within the islands, and authorities are now investigating what happened. Here's NPR's Julie McCarthy.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: A video taken by Philippine soldiers awaiting the arrival of the C-130 shows the plane coming in for a landing at the airport on the small island of Jolo - then, the shock.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Screaming in non-English language).

MCCARTHY: Witnesses watched the plane overshoot the runway before it bursts into a fireball. Black plumes billow into a sunny, undisturbed sky. Witnesses said a number of soldiers were seen dropping from the aircraft before it hit the ground. Defense analyst Jose Custodio says the airport, with its single airstrip, is rudimentary and leaves little room to maneuver.

JOSE CUSTODIO: It's really a combination of so many things. Pilots seem to have made an error, tried to correct the error. But the physical limitations of the airport were unforgiving, and that's why you had this tragedy happening.

MCCARTHY: The plane was transporting troops, many of them fresh from basic training, to Sulu, a string of islands in the south that is predominantly Muslim. For decades there, government forces have battled secessionists and Islamist militants, including the small but extremely violent jihadist group Abu Sayyaf. The Philippines and the U.S. have branded the group an outlawed terrorist organization.

The crashed C-130 was first flown in 1988 and arrived from the United States in January as part of a military assistance program. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan offered condolences to the Philippines and said the U.S. was ready to provide all appropriate support. The Philippines' small fleet of C-130s has been grounded pending an investigation.

Julie McCarthy, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Julie McCarthy has spent most of career traveling the world for NPR. She's covered wars, prime ministers, presidents and paupers. But her favorite stories "are about the common man or woman doing uncommon things," she says.

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