Sunday 18 February 2018

48 people die in Taiwan plane crash

A relative of a passenger onboard the crashed TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 cries at a funeral parlour in Penghu
A relative of a passenger onboard the crashed TransAsia Airways Flight GE222 cries at a funeral parlour in Penghu

Family members of victims of a plane crash were flying to the small Taiwanese island where the plane had unsuccessfully attempted to land in stormy weather, killing 48 people.

The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed into a residential area on Penghu in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China.

The plane was on a flight 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 said.

The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, he said.

The government's Central News Agency identified the French passengers as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer.

The airline said one of the injured 10 survivors had gone home, and that five local residents had been hurt on the ground but they were also treated and released.

The news agency quoted a TransAsia Airways statement as saying family members had taken a charter flight this morning to Magong airport, near where the crash happened.

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.

About 200 airline flights had been cancelled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.

President Ma Ying-jeou called it "a very sad day in the history of Taiwanese aviation," the Central News Agency reported.

The agency said the plane's captain had 22 years of flying experience and the co-pilot had more than two years.

The airline was offering the family of each victim about £3,900 and paying another £15,850 for funeral expenses, the agency reported.

The plane came down in the village of Xixi outside the airport. Television stations showed rescue workers pulling bodies from the wreckage.

Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets, is a popular tourist site about 90 miles south west 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.

The flight left Kaohsiung at 4.53pm local time for Magong on Penghu, according to the head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, Jean Shen. The plane lost contact with the tower at 7.06pm local time after saying it would make a second landing attempt.

The Central News Agency, citing the county fire department, said it appeared heavy rain reduced visibility and the pilot was forced to pull up and attempt a second landing.

In Taipei, TransAsia Airways' general manager, Hsu Yi-Tsung, bowed deeply before reporters and tearfully apologised for the accident, the news agency said.

"As TransAsia is responsible for this matter, we apologise. We apologise," he said.

Taiwan's last major aviation disaster was also near Penghu. In 2002, a China Airlines Boeing 747 broke apart in midair and crashed into the Taiwan Strait, killing all 225 people aboard.

Press Association

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