Deadly Taiwan Plane Crash In Stormy Weather

By: From CBS News
By: From CBS News

TAIPEI, Taiwan (CBS News) -- A plane attempting to land in stormy weather crashed on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday, killing 47 people and wrecking houses and cars on the ground.

The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed on Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China, authorities said. The plane was arriving from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Two people aboard the plane were French citizens and the rest Taiwanese, Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters. The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, Yeh said.

The crash of flight GE222 was Taiwan's first fatal air accident in 12 years and came after Typhoon Matmo passed across the island, causing heavy rains that continued into Wednesday night. Some 200 airline flights had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.

The official death toll was 47, according to Wen Chia-hung, spokesman for the Penghu disaster response center. He said the 11 other people were injured.

Authorities were looking for one person who might have been in a house that was struck by wreckage, Wen said. A car was crushed by a toppled wall but Wen said no one was in it.

President Ma Ying-jeou called it "a very sad day in the history of Taiwanese aviation," according to a spokesman for his office, Ma Wei-kuo, the government's Central News Agency reported.

The plane came down in the village of Xixi outside the airport. Television stations showed rescue workers pulling bodies from wreckage. Photos in local media showed firefighters using flashlights to look through the wreckage, and buildings damaged by debris.

Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets, is a popular tourist site about 90 miles southwest of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.

Residents said they heard thunder and then what sounded like an explosion, the news agency said. It cited the Central Weather Bureau as saying there were thunderstorms in the area.

"I heard a loud bang," a local resident was quoted as saying by television station TVBS. "I thought it was thunder, and then I heard another bang and I saw a fireball not far away from my house."

About 200 military personnel were sent to help recover the people who were on the plane, Taiwanese Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said, according to the news agency.

The ministry said military vehicles and ambulances were rushing people to hospitals and an air force rescue team was on standby to transfer survivors to Taiwan's main island if needed for treatment, the agency reported.

News of Wednesday's crash came as military transport planes carrying coffins bearing victims of last week's downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 landed in the Dutch city of Eindhoven. That crash killed all 298 passengers and crew.

Malaysia Airlines posted a message to Twitter conveying the carrier's concern for the TransAsia victims.


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