The C-130 military plane was transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro, in Mindanao, to Sulu province on Sunday when it missed the runway on the island of Jolo, CNN Philippines reported, citing Armed Forces Chief Cirilito Sobejana.
The plane, which was carrying more than 90 military personnel and crew, crashed into nearby Patikul village at 11.30am on Sunday (1.30pm AEST).
“Minutes after the crash, troops and civilian volunteers rushed to the site for search and rescue. Per eyewitnesses, a number of soldiers were seen jumping out of the aircraft before it hit the ground sparing them from the explosion caused by the crash,” according to a press release by Joint Task Force Sulu.
Images from a local TV station appeared to show the burning wreck of the plane and thick smoke billowing from the village. A large plume of smoke is seen in images of the crash rising up through the palms to the blue sky.
Among those killed are 42 military personnel and three civilians. Of the 53 people injured, 49 are military personnel and four are civilians, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said. The civilians killed and injured were on the ground at the site of the crash.
Five military personnel who were on board the plane were still missing, the army said.
At least 50 people were hospitalised after the crash, with some being evacuated to the city of “Zamboanga to undergo further treatment,” according to the statement.
Joint Task Force Sulu Commander William N Gonzales said the “individuals were supposed to report to their battalions today.
“They were supposed to join us in our fight against terrorism,” he said.
Defence Minister Delfin Lorenzana said the plane was carrying 92 people on board, including three pilots and five crew members. The rest were army personnel reporting for duty, Lorenzana said in a statement, according to CNN Philippines.
Military and civilian firefighters have been deployed to put out the fire and rescue operations are focused on pulling survivors from the crash site, according to CNN Philippines.
This is the country’s worst military air disaster in about 30 years, Reuters reported. In 1993, a Philippines Air Force C-130 crashed, killing 30 people.
Sunday’s crash came weeks after a newly acquired S-70i Black Hawk utility helicopter crashed during a night flight about 60 miles north of the capital Manila. All six people on board died, according to CNN Philippines.
The military personnel were supposed to bolster the battalions fighting against Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino jihadi group based in Sulu that has been involved in bomb attacks and piracy for decades. The group proclaimed allegiance to ISIS in 2014.