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At least 32 confirmed dead in Taipei plane crash

February 5, 2015

Taiwan's president has visited survivors and relatives of those who died in Wednesday's plane crash. Search and rescue continues to look for nearly a dozen missing bodies amid the wreckage.

Suche nach Opfern nach Flugzeugzunglück in Taiwan 05.02.2015
Image: Reuters/P. Chuang

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou visited two hospitals in Taipei on Thursday in a show of support to survivors of Wednesday's plane crash. He also visited a morgue to comfort relatives of those who died in the crash.

"This kind of air safety incident not only wrecks countless happy families but also affects trust in our tourism climate among tourists from outside Taiwan," Ma's office said in a statement, referring to the fact that many of the plane's passengers had been Chinese tourists. "We must undergo this bitter experience and make all-out improvements."

Taipei's mayor, Ko Wen-je, on Thursday praised the airplane's pilot, Liao Chien-tsung, and co-pilot, Liu Tzu-chung, saying the situation would have been worse had the plane crashed into the bridge or broken high-voltage bus bars. The bodies of the two pilots were found at the crash site early Thursday.

Plane crashes just after takeoff

At least 32 people have been confirmed dead after passenger plane flight GE235 carrying 72 people on board crashed into the Keelung River shortly after takeoff from Taipei's Sungshan Airport on Wednesday morning.

Shortly before the plane crashed, one of the plane's pilots told air traffic control, "Mayday, mayday, engine flameout," the Associated Press quoted an aviation official as saying. The plane then turned and clipped a bridge before landing in the river, avoiding nearby residential high-rises.

After recovering the black boxes overnight, divers continued their search for the remaining people not yet pulled from the wreckage.

Flugzeugzunglück in Taiwan 04.02.2015
The cause of the crash is still unknownImage: imago/Xinhua

Flight data to be released Friday

Police diver Cheng Ying-chih told the Associated Press that search and rescue was being hampered by "zero visibility" in the turbid river and cold water temperatures that were forcing divers to work in one-hour shifts.

He said the front of the plane had broken into numerous pieces, making the job all the more difficult.

"We're looking at a very tough search and rescue job," Cheng told reporters gathered on the river bank beside the wreckage.

The cause of the crash remains unknown. Taiwanese authorities have said data from the data and cockpit voice recorders would be released on Friday.

TransAsia Airways Flight GE235 was of the French-Italian ATR 72 make. Another ATR 72 crashed last July in the outlying Taiwan-controlled islands of Penghu, killing 48. The reasons for that crash are still under investigation. On Wednesday, the Taiwanese Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) ordered local carriers to ground the 22 ATR 72 planes in the country pending inspection.

sb/kms (dpa, AP)