1005 GMT January 19, 2019
The aircraft, on a domestic flight to Holguin in eastern Cuba, crashed shortly after taking off from Havana at 11 a.m. (1500 GMT). There were either 104 or 105 passengers, including five children, plus nine crew members, various state media said.
Five of the passengers plus the crew were foreign, media reports said. The Mexican government said Mexicans citizens were among the dead, without providing further details.
"We should expect that the news will not be good, as there are a high number of people who appear to have been killed," President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in broadcast comments.
The fire from the crash had been put out and authorities were identifying bodies, the president said. The cause of the crash was not immediately known and Diaz-Canel said authorities were investigating.
"We heard an explosion and then saw a big cloud of smoke go up," said Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the crash site in the agricultural area of Boyeros.
The Boeing 737-201 aircraft was built in 1979 and leased by Cuban airline Cubana from a small Mexican firm called Damojh, according to the Mexican government. That would make it significantly older than most planes in service.
Cubana has been the subject of complaints over service and delays in recent months.
Carlos Alberto Martinez, the director of Havana's Calixto Garcia hospital, told Reuters that four victims of the accident had been brought there. One had died and three others, all women, were in a serious condition, he said.
The reason for the plane going down was unclear. "During take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground," the Mexican transport department said on its website.
Most aircraft accidents take months of investigation to explain and are typically caused by a cocktail of different factors, according to aviation experts.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry in a statement extended condolences to the Cuban government, nation and victims’ families.
The last fatal crash in Cuba was in 2017, the Aviation Safety Network said. It was a military flight that killed all eight on board. In 2010, a commercial Aero Caribbean plane crashed in central Cuba. All 68 people on board were killed.
The United States has a decades-old trade embargo on the island.