Experts sent to investigate ‘dangerous cargo’ after plane carrying munitions crashes in northern Greece

Nearby residents were told to keep their windows shut all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks

Experts have been sent to investigate the site of a plane crash in northern Greece in order to determine whether any dangerous chemicals or explosive cargo remained.

The Antonov An-12 cargo plane crashed into fields between two villages late on Saturday (16 July), with local residents reporting seeing a fireball and hearing explosions for two hours afterwards.

The Antonov An-12 cargo plane crashed into fields between two villages (Photo: SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Soviet-era four-engine turboprop cargo carrier plane crashed shortly before 11pm local time, about 25 miles (40km) west of Kavala International Airport.

Minutes earlier, the pilot of the plane had told air traffic controllers there was a problem with one of his engines and that he had to make an emergency landing. He was directed to Kavala airport.

White smoke was also still rising from the front end of the plane on Sunday morning.

Firefighters who rushed to the scene overnight were prevented from reaching the crash site by smoke and an intense smell which they feared might be toxic.

Nearby residents were also told to keep their windows shut all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks.

Serbian defence minister Nebojsa Stefanovic told a news conference on Sunday that all eight crew members were killed.

He said the plane had taken off from the Serbian city of Nis and was carrying 11.5 tons of Serbian-made mortar ammunition to Bangladesh, which was the buyer. It has been due to make a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

The plane was operated by Ukrainian cargo carrier Meridian and the Ukrainian consul in Thessaloniki told local officials that the crew were all Ukrainian.

Mr Stefanovic said: “These were illuminating mortar mines and training (mines) … This flight had all necessary permissions in accordance with international regulations.”

Authorities said they did not know if there were dangerous chemicals on the plane, including those contained in batteries.

A special army unit that looks for nuclear, biological and chemical substances is now set to search the site, with the fire service cordoning off the area at a radius of about 400m.

The mayor of the municipality of Paggaio, to which the two villages close to the crash belong, has also banned vehicle movements on nearby roads.