Taipei, July 24 (): A plane sailing through a storm in the wake of a typhoon collided and caught fire on Wednesday evening while attempting to do an emergency landing on Penghu Island, off western Taiwan. Forty-seven people were trapped and feared dead while 11 are injured, officials said.
Transport Minister of Taiwan Yeh Kuang-shih told the plane, operated by TransAsia Airways of Taiwan, was carrying four crew members and 58 passengers,out of which four were children. The Flight GE222 was flying from the southern port city of Kaohsiung to Penghu, he said.
Yeh Kuang-shih said the flight carrying 58 passengers missed the aerodrome and crashed on to the ground of Huxi village on Penghu Island, sparkling fires in at least two homes.
Typhoon Matmo that had struck Taiwan brought strong winds and rain in the early hours of the day. Many flights had been cancelled or delayed due to the stormy weather. The flight GE222 had been delayed by nearly two hours in Kaohsiung due to unfavourable weather conditions. It was initially due to take off at 4 pm local time from Kaohsiung.
The plane was trying to land amidst heavy rain at Magong airport, but it was forced to pull because of low visibility. The plane lost contact with air traffic control at 7.06pm local time. While trying for the second time to land the plane, it crashed in Huxi village, a mere 3 kilometres away from the airport runway.
Jean Shen, Civil Aeronautics Administration’s director-general, said the weather conditions at the airport were favourable for landing at the time, with 1600 metres visibility, adding that a UNI Air plane and a Far Eastern Air Transport flight had safely landed just a few minutes before the TransAsia flight.
More than 200 fire fighters, police and military rushed to the crash site. Military vehicles and ambulances carried the wounded to hospitals nearby, while a special air force team stood prepared to fly the survivors to main island when required.
Photographs from the crash place showed emergency crew members crowded in the wreckage place in spite of darkness, making use of flashlights to get their way through the junks of damaged buildings, crushed cars and debris.