A Taiwanese airline flight crashed while making an emergency landing in the Penghu islands today, killing at least 47 people, Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said this evening.
TransAsia Airways flight GE222 was said to be carrying 54 passengers and four crew members on a flight from Kaohsiung to Makung, in the Penghu archipelago.
According to officials, the ATR-72 (turboprop) aircraft had departed Kaohsiung at 5.43pm (Taiwan time; Malaysia and Taiwan are in the same time zone), after being delayed from its scheduled 4pm departure time due to bad weather.
The short flight time was extended at its arrival in Makung Airport after stormy weather, in the wake of Typhoon Matmo, prevented it from landing.
According to the popular English-language daily, the pilot was reportedly asked to wait until 7.06pm before being allowed to land.
A first attempt at landing reportedly failed, and the pilot then made a request to make a second try. Shortly after, the Makung air traffic control lost contact with the flight, Taiwan News reported, quoting officials.
The plane reportedly smashed hard into the ground in the township of Huxi, causing a fire involving two homes. Online pictures showed a heavily damaged house and wreckage from the plane.
No one was killed or hurt in the buildings. Eleven injured people on the plane were taken to hospital, the government said.
“It was thunderstorm conditions during the crash,” said Hsi 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.
There was no immediate information about what caused the pilot’s change of plans and how the passengers were injured, though media reports spoke of a fire and of the injured suffering burns.
Taiwan News identified the pilot as being 60-year-old Lee Yi-liang.
Makung Airport was closed down after the incident.
Meanwhile, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported that over the past 13 years, TransAsia Airways suffered eight accidents, including six with the French-Italian ATR-72.