A flight of Laos' national airline has crashed into the Mekong River and officials fear all 49 people on board have died. The turboprop was approaching Pakse, a hub for tourists in southern Laos.
A Lao Airlines plane flying from the capital Vientiane and carrying 49 people crashed on Wednesday in the southern Laos. The plane was approaching Pakse. Thai television showed the plane half submerged in the river Mekong.
Pakse is a hub for tourists traveling to and from more remote areas of southern Laos.
The airline on its social network page confirmed the crash, adding that there was "no news of survivors at this time." The twin-engine turboprop ATR-72 plane had encountered "extreme" bad weather, the airline said.
The passenger list for Flight QV301 included people from 11 countries.
The state-run Laos news agency KPL quoted a witness as saying that the plane was about to land but appeared to be hit by a strong wind.
The aircraft was forced to ascend and pushed away from the airport area and "out of reach of the air traffic control radar," the witness said.
Fabius 'great sadness'
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France was rushing embassy officials to the crash site. Fabius said he was deeply saddened by the reported 7 French nationals killed in the crash.
The plane manufacturer ATR in France said Lao Airlines operated six ATR-72 planes among its fleet. The aircraft that crashed was new and had been delivered in March, ATR said.
Laos' last fatal aviation accident was in October 2000 when a plane operated by the airline - then called Lao Aviation - crashed in mountains in the remote northeast of Laos, killing eight people.
The nation, with a population of about seven million and a secretive one-party government. is one of Asia's poorest and is highly dependent on foreign donors.
Tourism and mining have played increasing important roles in its economy.
ipj/kms (AFP, Reuters, AP)