Cargo of mortar ammunition from Serbia to Bangladesh crashes in Greece, eight dead

Experts investigating the location of a load plane crash in the north Greece say they have found no traces of hazardous materials, but say there is still a lot of ammunition.

The An-12 cargo plane from Serbia, flown by a Ukrainian aviation crew, crashed into fields between two Greek villages late Saturday (early Sunday AEST).

The hull dragged 170 meters on the ground before disintegrating, authorities said. Local residents reported seeing a fireball and hearing explosions two hours after the crash.

A flame can be seen among the debris of an Antonov cargo plane in the village of Palaiochori in northern Greece. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (AP)

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

He said the plane was carrying about 10.5 tons of Serbian-made mortar ammunition to Bangladesh, which was the buyer.

It had taken off from the Serbian city of Nis and was due to make a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

The special joint nuclear, biological and chemical defense unit of the Greek army cleared two paths on Sunday for forensic experts to enter before departing.

The new team was on site on Sunday afternoon to collect body parts. It has identified six of the eight crew members so far and is aiming to collect their evidence by sunset, authorities say.

This drone photo shows the spot where the An-12 cargo plane crashed. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (AP)

Explosive ordnance disposal experts had also begun work at the site, although it looked as if they were due to resume work at dawn on Monday, local authorities said.

Only when their work is done will experts from the Civil Aviation Authority try to find out the black box of the plane.

Due to the widespread ammunition, the fire brigade and police have created an extensive security perimeter.

Residents have been allowed to leave their homes early on Sunday but have been told their fields may not be safe to work in due to the likely presence of explosives. Nearby dirt roads are closed to vehicles.

On Sunday morning, another plume of white smoke billowed from the front of the plane.

The aircraft was operated by the Ukrainian freight company Meridian. The Ukrainian consul in Thessaloniki, who arrived at the crash site, told local officials that the crew were all Ukrainian.

Debris from an Antonov cargo plane can be seen at the crash site. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos) (AP)

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

The plane crashed shortly before 11 p.m. on Sunday, about 40 kilometers west of Kavala International Airport.

Minutes earlier, the pilot had told the air traffic controllers that he had a problem with one engine and that he had to make an emergency landing. He was directed to Kavala airport but never got there.

The aircraft is a Soviet-era four-engine turboprop freighter.

Drone images show that only small fragments of the aircraft are left.

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Firefighters who rushed to the scene Saturday night were unable to reach the crash site due to smoke and an intense odor that they feared could be toxic.

Local residents were told to keep their windows closed all night, not to leave their homes and to wear masks.

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