At least 25 people have died in Asia’s latest air catastrophe after a TransAsia plane carrying 58 people crashed into a river in Taiwan just minutes after takeoff.
TransAsia Flight GE235, an ATR 72-600 turboprop, took off from Taipei, the capital, at around 10.53am and was on its way to the island of Kinmen when the incident happened.
Initial reports suggested the aircraft hit part of a motorway overpass and then plummeted into a section of the Keelung river around 3 miles from the airport. There were 53 passengers, including two children, and five crew on the plane. At least 25 people were reported to have been killed.
A witness, named only as Mr Wu, told local television he had watched in horror from his 25th floor office as the plane came down.
“The whole thing was open in 5 to 10 seconds,” he told Taiwan’s CTITV. “I saw the flight hit the viaduct and fall into the river. I saw a big splash.”
A passing driver reportedly captured the flight’s final moments with a camera placed on their dashboard.
The images appeared to show Flight GE235 pitching violently to its left before crashing into the river, sending a plume of debris into the air.
Another video broadcast on Taiwanese television appeared to show the plane striking a bridge before crashing.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the veracity of either video.
A photograph posted on social media showed the crumpled bonnet of a Volkswagen taxi that the plane had also reportedly clipped as it came down.
A spokesman for Crown Taxis, the company, said its driver had been taken to Zhong Xiao hospital in Taipei where he was under observation.
“He was hit on the head,” said Mr Yang, a company representative.
Local television carried live images of the rescue effort showing workers in yellow and orange life vests attempting to extract victims from the plane's semi-submerged fuselage.
A helicopter hovered overhead as red dinghies were used to carry victims to shore.
Ke Wenzhe, the mayor of Taipei, told a press conference that 28 people had been pulled from the plane’s wreckage, of whom 9 died before reaching the hospital. The extent of the survivors’ injuries was not immediately clear. Thirty passengers were missing.
hirty-one of those on the plane were tourists from Mainland China, according to Chinese media reports.
Weng Kaikai, who knew one Chinese passenger, took to Facebook to celebrate after learning his friend had survived from a television report. “My friend is alive,” he wrote, according to Hong Kong’s Apple Daily. “I almost burst into tears."
The causes of the disaster were not immediately clear but FlightRadar24.com, a specialist website, said the plane had attempted to turn back before its crash and had been in the air for less than three minutes.
Today’s crash is TransAsia’s second in a year. Last July, 48 people died and 10 were injured when TransAsia Flight GE222 crashed during a rainstorm after its pilots were unable to locate the runway.
That incident was one of four major disasters to strike Asian carriers in 2014.
Malaysia Airlines lost two planes, MH370 and MH17, carrying a total of 537 people.
In December an AirAsia plane carrying 162 people crashed into the Java Sea while flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore. So far the bodies of only 90 of those people have been found.