36 bodies found from Taiwan plane crash

Updated: 2014-07-23 21:24


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Rescuers have so far recovered 36 bodies from the debris of a Taiwan plane crash Wednesday evening, a local fire brigade official said.

The figure could further rise, as earlier reports said close to 50 people were feared dead after the passenger plane, operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways, smashed into residential buildings while attempting an emergency landing in stormy weather.

Flight GE 222, carrying 54 passengers and four crew members, was flying from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan to Penghu Islands in the west. According to the transport authority, the passengers included two French nationals. No one from the Chinese mainland was on board the plane.

One of the black boxes has been found, according to the authority.

The twin-engine ATR-72 turboprop aircraft was originally scheduled to take off at 4 p.m., but left Kaohsiung at 5:43 p.m. due to bad weather.

As the plane was preparing to land at Magong Airport in heavy rain, it was forced to pull up due to poor visibility.

The aircraft requested to circle above before trying to land but lost contact with the tower, said Jean Shen, director general of Taiwan's civil aeronautics administration, at a press conference.

On its second attempt at landing, the flight crashed into residential buildings in the village of Xixi in Penghu. Injuries of villagers were reported.

A flurry of reports have generated a somewhat conflicting information, with earlier local media reports quoting also sources from local transport authority as saying that 47 people had been confirmed dead in the plane crash.

It is not instantly clear what had led to the failed landing. Wang Hsing-chung, head of Taiwan's aviation safety council, said it is still too early to speculate the cause of the crash.

But many have blame foul weather conditions, for the accident took place just as typhoon Matmo slammed the island with heavy rains and strong winds, shutting financial markets and schools.

There had been 11 aviation accidents in waters off the Penghu islands since 1967, resulting in 289 people dead or missing.

TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, flying chiefly on domestic routes, but with some flights to Japan, Thailand and Cambodia among its Asian destinations.

Apart from Wednesday's event, Taiwan's aviation safety authorities said TransAsia has had a total of 8 incidents since 2002, including 6 involving the ATR 72.