A plane attempting to land in stormy weather crashed on a small Taiwanese island on Thursday, 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 this night. Some 200 airline flights had been cancelled 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 Central News Agency reported.
The plane came down in the village of Xixi outside the airport. Residents said they heard thunder and then what sounded like an explosion, the news agency said.
“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.”
Rescuers said that they had recovered black boxes from the Taiwanese aircraft which crashed in torrential rain, as angry relatives blamed authorities for the worst air disaster in a decade.
The discovery of the black boxes — which record cockpit voice and other in-flight data — raised hopes of an answer to what caused the domestic TransAsia Airways flight to crash in Magong in the Penghu island chain yesterday, with just 10 survivors.