, BEIJING, July 7 – Chinese citizens mourned the deaths of two teenage girls killed after a South Korean-owned passenger jet crashed at San Francisco airport Sunday as survivors recounted harrowing details of their tragic flight.
Chinese nationals made up 141 of the 291 passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 which burst into flames after it landed short of the runway, injuring 182.
The two dead were Chinese girls born in 1996 and 1997, state broadcaster CCTV said.
As of Sunday afternoon the Chinese consulate in San Francisco had confirmed the safety of 70 Chinese nationals and posted their names on its website.
CCTV urged survivors and their loved ones to post information on the online messaging system We Chat so they could find one another.
Social media users also offered condolences for the two girls killed on board, whose identities were being withheld for the time being out of privacy considerations, CCTV said.
“In a country of families with mostly single children, how can the parents take this?” wrote one on the Chinese microblog Sina Weibo, referring to China’s population-control policy limiting families to one child.
“Life is supposed to have just started for them,” said another user. “Who knew the journey to the dream would become their last trip?”
Among the survivors were 60 students and several teachers travelling in two groups, with a few suffering injuries and one student unaccounted for, CCTV reported.
“When the crash happened we felt we were done for. Equipment and everything was falling on our heads,” a teacher from northern Shanxi province told CCTV.
But “none of us were seriously injured”.
Xu Da, a Chinese passenger on board the plane which originated in Shanghai and picked up passengers in South Korea before heading to the United States described the dramatic incident to CCTV.
“I noticed the plane was flying quite low when landing, and as it was just about to land the plane suddenly accelerated and the nose started to rise,” he said. “But at the time the plane was flying extremely low already.”
He added: “I felt a shock. The oxygen masks fell down and a bad smell began to spread throughout the plane. I could also see sparks in the front part of the plane.”
Once the plane landed the cabin was a “mess”, the back of the plane had a large hole and the kitchen there had disappeared, he described on Sina Weibo.
A student passenger surnamed Lin described a dark and uncomfortable scene after the crash.
“There was dust everywhere and it was very dark. The air smelled horrible. Foam was gushing in and outside the jet,” he told the microblog service Tencent Weibo in an online interview.
“To be honest the first thing I thought about was to look for my glasses.”
Xu and his wife quickly collected their belongings some of which had been strewn about and rushed out the makeshift exit at the back.
Xu posted photos showing people waiting outside while thick black smoke billowed from the plane, and then later from inside the airport, though the images could not be verified.
“I feel very fortunate,” he wrote a little later, before posting another photo from a car leaving the scene.
Other travellers were left waiting for their flights as the airport shut down immediately after the incident before reopening a few runways.
China’s civil aviation body said on its website on Sunday it had requested Chinese airlines to help passengers and their relatives make flight arrangements.