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LONDON -- Although the giant Russian military cargo plane that crashed in a Siberian city earlier this month was uninsured, claims for its cargo of two jet fighter planes will be more than $50 million.
London aviation underwriters confirmed the 11-year-old Antonov-124 cargo aircraft, which was totally destroyed when it crashed Dec. 6 into a residential area of Irkutsk, was not insured.
However, Russian state arms exporter Rosvooruzheniye had purchased $50 million of insurance from Russian insurer Ingosstrakh for the cargo of two Sukhoi-27 fighter planes. The jet planes had been sold and were en route to Vietnam.
Matthew Day, business development director at broker Willis Corroon Aerospace, said London insurers likely reinsured the coverage written for the cargo.
The plane crashed seconds after takeoff from a military air base. It failed to gain proper altitude and plowed into an apartment building. There were unconfirmed reports that the pilot had reported losing power in two engines.
The death toll from the crash reached 67, including all 23 people aboard the plane and 44 people on the ground. As of last week, however, the toll was expected to rise, because at least 25 people on the ground were unaccounted for.
If past Russian practice is an indicator, liability payments to families of victims in the plane and on the ground will be small.
About 50 Antonov-124s have been built, and they are flown by the Russian military and private operators.
This was the fourth crash of an An-124 over the past five years, according to Paul Hayes, a director of Airclaims Ltd., a London-based specialist loss adjuster. However, he said, there is no evidence of a common fault linking any of the crashes and the known incidents surrounding each loss have been different.
However, after this month's crash, the Russian military has grounded all of its An-124s until the inquiry into the latest incident is complete. The order does not apply to the approximately 20 An-124s in use by private Russian operators in non-military cargo roles.
Andrei Kokoshin, the state military inspector-secretary of the Russian Security Council, warned against drawing any "hasty conclusions" about the cause of the crash.