TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — An airline said Thursday it suspected typhoon weather caused one of its planes to crash land on a small Taiwanese island, killing 48 people.
The ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways was carrying 58 passengers and crew when it crashed into houses on the Penghu island chain in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China late Wednesday, authorities said. The plane was on a flight from the city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.
Two people killed on the plane were French citizens and the rest Taiwanese, an airline representative, Phoebe Lu, told The Associated Press on Thursday. The airline identified the French passengers as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer.
The airline said one of the injured 10 survivors had gone home, and that five local residents had been hurt on the ground but they were also treated and released.
The twin-engine turboprop crashed while making a second landing attempt, Taiwan transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters.
Penghu, a scenic chain of 64 islets, is a popular tourist site about 150 kilometers (90 miles) southwest of the Taiwanese capital, Taipei.
The crash of Flight GE222 was Taiwan's first fatal air accident in 12 years and came after Typhoon Matmo passed across the island, causing heavy rains that continued into Wednesday night. About 200 airline flights had been canceled earlier in the day due to rain and strong winds.
The government's Central News Agency cited Taiwan's Central Weather Bureau as saying there were thunderstorms in the area at the time of the crash.
Lu said TransAsia suspected typhoon weather caused the crash, but was waiting for aviation authorities to finish an investigation to say for sure.
The plane showed no defects and had ample visibility to land safely, Civil Aeronautics Administration spokesman Lee Wan-lee said.
The airline said family members had taken a charter flight on Thursday morning to Magong airport, near where the crash happened. They would then be taken to a morgue to identify victims.
"All the bodies have been dug out," said Chen Tung-yi, a section chief with the Penghu disaster response center. "We're cleaning up the site now and also doing appraisals of the situation and trying to identify victims."
The plane crashed into eight houses, including some built from coral harvested off the coast, Chen said.
Local television footage showed disaster crews Thursday picking through the remains of the cabin, demolished houses and a car that was smashed by the plane.
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