ALGIERS, Algeria — An Algerian military transport plane slammed into a mountain Tuesday in the country’s rugged eastern region, killing 77 people and leaving just one survivor, the country’s defense ministry said.

Air traffic controllers lost radio and radar contact with the U.S.-built C-130 Hercules turboprop just before noon and dispatched helicopters to try to find it. The plane was discovered in pieces on Mount Fortas near the town of Ain Kercha, 30 miles southeast of Constantine, the main city in eastern Algeria.

The plane was heading to Constantine from the southern Saharan city of Tamanrasset, which has a massive military presence due to its proximity to the country’s unstable southern borders. It was at least 24 years old, according to sales information supplied by its maker, Lockheed Martin Corp.

The plane carried 74 passengers and four crew members, the military said in its statement, blaming poor weather for the crash.

The lone survivor – a soldier – suffered head injuries and was flown to the military hospital in Algiers, a retired Algerian intelligence officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Civil defense officials at the snowy crash site said the plane broke into three parts and women and children were among the dead. Military transports in Algeria routinely carry not only soldiers but military families and sometimes even other civilians, if space is available.

Commander Farid Nechad, who was coordinating recovery efforts, said 55 bodies had been recovered so far but conditions at the crash site were difficult.