The Miami-bound cargo plane clipped a church tower and set an entire neighborhood ablaze, creating a wall of flames so hot that rescuers could only listen to the screams of the injured.
“It was a nightmare. The barrio looks as if it has been bombed,” resident Vicente Abad said Wednesday. “Everything is in ruins.”
The Boeing 707 destroyed Abad’s garage late Tuesday night when it smashed into a crowded neighborhood of Manta. The plane’s wheels were embedded in one of the walls.
At least 30 people were killed, including the plane’s three crew members, an American and two Colombians. A priest at the church also was killed. About 80 people were injured, most with burns, and as many as 300 were left homeless.
Doctors said some of the injured were in critical condition and might not survive. More than 30 homes and a school also were destroyed in the crash.
Authorities feared the death toll could rise because the homes in the area of the crash are tightly grouped and made of flimsy material.
Townspeople said many people panicked when the plane smashed into homes because they thought it was an earthquake.
Because Tuesday was a local holiday, many families had left town to enjoy the day off. That raised hopes that some of the crushed homes may have been empty.