Wednesday 18 October 2017

At least 19 killed as Taiwan plane clips bridge and plummets into river

The commercial plane lies in river after crashing in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo)
The commercial plane lies in river after crashing in Taipei, Taiwan. (AP Photo)

Press Association

At least 19 people have been killed and 24 are missing after a Taiwanese flight carrying 58 people turned on its side in midair, clipped an elevated roadway and crashed into a river on the island's capital of Taipei.

More than half the passengers on board TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 were from China and the death toll was expected to rise as rescue crews cleared the mostly submerged fuselage in the Keelung River. Teams in rubber rafts clustered around the wreckage.

Video clips apparently taken from cars on Taiwan's National Freeway No. 1 were posted online showing the ATR 72 prop-jet as it pivoted onto its side while heading towards the road. In one of them, the plane rapidly fills the screen as its now-vertical wing scrapes over the road, hitting a vehicle before heading into the river.

It was the airline's second French-Italian-built ATR 72 to crash in the past year.

The flight had taken off at 11.35am local time from Taipei's downtown Sungshan Airport en route to the outlying Taiwanese-controlled Kinmen islands. The pilot issued a mayday call shortly after take-off.

TransAsia director Peter Chen said contact with the plane was lost four minutes after take-off, but that weather conditions were suitable for flying and the cause of the accident was unknown.

He told a news conference: "Actually this aircraft in the accident was the newest model. It hadn't been used for even a year."

Thirty-one passengers were from China, Taiwan's tourism bureau said. Kinmen's airport is a common link between Taipei and China's Fujian province.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration said 19 people were confirmed dead, 15 were injured and 24 were still missing.

Wu Jun-hong, a Taipei Fire Department official who was coordinating the rescue, said the missing people were either still in the fuselage or had been pulled down the river.

"At the moment, things don't look too optimistic," Wu said. "Those in the front of the plane are likely to have lost their lives."

The plane's wing hit a taxi on the road. The driver and a passenger were injured.

Taiwan's Ministry of National Defence said it had sent 165 people and eight boats to the riverside rescue scene, joining fire department rescue crews.

Another ATR 72 operated by the same Taipei-based airline crashed in the outlying Taiwan-controlled islands of Penghu on July 23 last year, killing 48 at the end of a typhoon. The reasons for the crash are still under investigation.

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