, BEIJING, Aug 25 – A Chinese airliner smashed into two pieces while trying to land in heavy fog, leaving at least 42 people dead but 54 survivors in the country\’s first major air disaster in nearly six years.
The Henan Airlines domestic flight was carrying 96 people when it slammed into the ground on landing in the northeast city of Yichun in remote Heilongjiang province late Tuesday, state media said.
Forty-two people were killed, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of China (CAAC), which reportedly had highlighted past technical problems with the plane involved — an ERJ-190 jet made by Brazilian company Embraer.
On Wednesday, rescuers were combing through the smouldering wreckage while the survivors — mainly from the disembodied plane\’s front cabin — were being treated in four local hospitals, the Xinhua news agency said.
The plane\’s captain was among the survivors, but he had severe facial injuries and was unable to talk, Xinhua said.
At Yichun\’s fog-shrouded airport of Lindu, located in a forest about nine kilometres (five miles) outside the city, rescuers were transferring victims\’ bodies wrapped in silver bags to funeral homes for identification, it said.
"Families were seen waiting anxiously at an open ground in front of the airport. Men smoked, women wailed," Xinhua reported.
The crash occurred just after 9:30 pm (1330 GMT) on Tuesday around 40 minutes after the plane took off from Harbin, the provincial capital.
Some passengers were thrown out of the cabin before the Embraer plane\’s turbine jet hit the ground, Xinhua said. The charred wreckage of the plane came to rest two kilometres (a mile) from the runway.
Cabin debris, books and rubbish were scattered across the muddy crash site.
Wang Xuemei, the vice mayor of Yichun who oversaw the rescue efforts, said most of the survivors had suffered broken bones.
Embraer offered its condolences to the victims\’ families and said it had sent a team of technicians to help with the investigation.
The cause of the crash was unclear and teams sifted through the wreckage for the plane\’s black box flight data recorder.
But Xinhua said Chinese carriers using ERJ-190s had reported technical problems in the past and the CAAC called a workshop last June to discuss the issues.
Notes from the meeting — which involved Kunpeng Airlines, as Henan Airlines was previously known — showed that broken turbine plates and flight control system errors were among the problems, Xinhua said.
Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang led a team of transport, safety and security officials to Yichun to deal with the aftermath of the crash and begin investigations, the news agency said.
The CAAC has also sent a 20-strong group of technicians and officials to the scene, it said.
Yichun is a city of one million people located around 150 kilometres (95 miles) from China\’s border with Russia.
Henan Airlines, based in the central province of the same name, launched the Yichun-Harbin service a year ago and operated the route three times a week, Xinhua said.
The carrier is run by Shenzhen Airlines, based in the southern city of the same name.
Xinhua said the crash was China\’s first major air disaster since a China Eastern Airlines jet crashed in Baotou City in Inner Mongolia in November 2004, killing 53 people on board and two on the ground.
The Yichun crash came a week after a North Korean military aircraft came down on a house in Liaoning province, also in China\’s northeast, killing the pilot.