ALMATY, KAZAKHSTAN - A top Kazakh official said authorities were looking at a possible "technical malfunction" or pilot error in the crash of a Bek Air plane that killed 12 of the 98 passengers and crew aboard early Friday.
Roman Sklyar, a deputy prime minister, said a special government commission was being sent to the site to investigate the accident, which occurred as the Fokker 100 plane attempted to take off from the Almaty airport on a flight to the capital, Nur-Sultan.
Sklyar cautioned, however, the investigation was in the early stages and no cause had yet been pinpointed.
He said eight people died at the scene, including the pilot, while two died at the airport and two others at the hospital.
Sklyar added that 49 people were hospitalized, 18 in serious condition.
"Either this is pilot error or there were technical reasons," Sklyar said Friday at a press conference in Almaty.
"The aircraft split into two parts. Most of the passengers who died were in the front part."
Kazakhstan on Saturday observed a day of mourning to honor the victims of the crash.
In Nur-Sultan, flags were at half-staff for the day of mourning, while officials urgently appealed for blood donations to help the dozens of injured survivors.
Russia and China were among the countries to join the European Union and the Vatican in expressing condolences to the former Soviet Central Asian republic.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development, the plane was unable to get to a significant height and crashed into a two-story building.
Four foreigners were aboard the plane, officials said — two from Ukraine and one each from China and Kyrgyzstan. They all survived, Kazakh authorities said.
Bek Air, which operates a fleet of Fokker 100 planes, said it had canceled about 100 flights through Tuesday, as the investigation into the cause of the crash proceeds.
German press agency dpa contributed to this report.