— With AAP.
1. Iran ‘likely’ downed plane with 176 people aboard, say US officials
A Ukraine airliner that crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people aboard, was most likely brought down accidentally by Iranian anti-aircraft missiles, US officials say.
One US official said that according to satellite data, the Ukrainian International Airlines Boeing 737-800 bound for Kiev was airborne for two minutes after departing Tehran when the heat signatures of two surface-to-air missiles were detected.
That was quickly followed by an explosion in the vicinity of the plane, the official said. Heat signature data then showed the plane on fire as it went down.
Iran’s head of civil aviation was quoted by ISNA News Agency as saying that it was “impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane”.
Two US officials said Washington believed the downing of the plane, which occurred at a time of rising tensions between Iran and the United States, was accidental.
An Iranian report on Thursday cited witnesses on the ground and in a passing aircraft flying at a high altitude as saying the plane was on fire while in the air.
US President Donald Trump said on Thursday the deadly crash could have been a mistake and he did not believe it was a mechanical issue.
Watch: Mike Pompeo on last week’s assassination of general Qassem Soleimani, believed to have triggered tensions between Iran and the west. Post continues after video.
Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration declined to comment on Thursday, as did the Pentagon.
Boeing is still reeling from two deadly crashes of 737 MAX planes in five months that led to the plane’s grounding in March 2019.
2. Erratic bushfire behaviour predicted in NSW
Authorities have warned hot, dry and windy conditions could cause “erratic” bushfire behaviour with total fire bans in place for much of NSW.
The Rural Fire Service has placed total fire bans on 10 regions across the state on Friday ahead of forecast hot and windy weather.
An extreme fire warning is in place for the southern slopes while severe fire warnings have been issued for the Monaro alpine region, ACT, southern ranges and eastern Riverina.