Updated: 07/07/2014 13:50 | By Agence France-Presse

Helicopter crashes in Vietnam capital, at least 12 reported dead

A military helicopter crashed in Vietnam's capital Hanoi during a routine training exercise Monday, an official said, and state-run media said at least a dozen servicemen were killed.

Helicopter crashes in Vietnam capital, at least 12 reported dead

A Russian-made MI-171 helicopter crashed in Hanoi during a training excercise on July 7, 2014, shown here is the same model in Vietnam in March this year on March 10, 2014. A military helicopter crashed in Vietnam's capital Hanoi during a routine training exercise on July 7, 2014, an official said, as state-run media carried conflicting reports of casualties. AFP PHOTO/HOANG DINH NAM - by Hoang Dinh Nam

The Russian-made Mi-171 chopper came down in the early morning in the Thach That district in the west of the city, a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"There were several people on the plane. We are examining the crash site now and the cause of the accident," he said. 

The incident happened during parachute training exercises, he added. 

The state-run Thanh Nien newspaper said there were 21 people on board -- three crew members, two instructors and 16 soldiers taking part in the exercises.

The helicopter appeared to run into difficulties before crashing into the ground and bursting into flames, an eyewitness told AFP.

"I heard an aircraft making a strange noise... I ran outside and the aircraft exploded, there was a huge blaze then a plume of smoke," said one middle-aged local resident, speaking on condition of anonymity. 

"The aircraft was flying low, it hit the ground and exploded at the same time," she said, adding it had looked like the helicopter was struggling to stay airborne before it crash-landed. 

"It seemed like the pilot wanted to divert the plane from hitting the local market and houses, so it ran into that field," she said, gesturing towards the cordoned-off crash site.

Local officials said the plane crashed in a sparsely-populated rural suburb of the capital.

Thanh Nien newspaper reported it smashed through the fence of one local property before bursting into flames.

"I heard someone shouting for help... there was another explosion and a lot of black smoke. Local residents rushed to help," the female local resident told AFP. 

Police and firefighters cordoned off the area, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.

The Tuoi Tre newspaper said sixteen soldiers were killed and five injured in the accident, without citing any sources.

Official VTC television quoted Duong Nhu Hung, chairman of the Thach Hoa people's committee in the district, as saying at least a dozen people had died and six more were injured.

Police could not immediately be reached to confirm the death or injury tolls.

In 2008 five Vietnamese military pilots were killed when their twin-engine light transport aircraft crashed on the outskirts of Hanoi. 

The Soviet-designed Antonov An-26 turboprop crashed into a rice field south of the capital during a morning training flight.

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