TAIPEI: A TransAsia Airways turboprop plane crashed on its second attempt at landing during a thunderstorm on an island off Taiwan yesterday, killing 47 people and setting buildings on fire, officials said.
The plane, a 70-seat ATR 72, crashed near the runway on the island of Penghu, west of the mainland, with 54 passengers and four crew on board, they said. No one was killed or hurt in the buildings.
Eleven injured people on the plane were taken to hospital, the government said.
The aircraft took off from Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung, headed for the island of Makong, but crash-landed in Huxi township of Penghu County, the main island of the chain also known as the Pescadores.
“It was thunderstorm conditions during the crash,” said His Wen-guang, a spokesman for the Penghu County Government Fire Bureau.
“From the crash site we sent 11 people to hospital with injuries. A few empty apartment buildings adjacent to the runway caught fire, but no one was inside at the time and the fire was extinguished.” About 100 firefighters were sent to the scene, besides 152 military personnel and 255 police, he added.
Television footage showed anxious relatives of passengers gathered at TransAsia’s counter at Kaohsiung airport, with one woman sitting on the floor and wailing after she could not get in touch with her daughter.
An airline official speaking on local television identified the pilot as 60-year-old Lee Yi-liang and co-pilot Chiang Kuan-hsin, 39, saying they had both accumulated more than 20,000 flight hours.
TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, operating chiefly short-haul flights on domestic routes as well as to mainland China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, among its Asian destinations.