TAIPEI, Taiwan, Feb 4 – Rescuers scrambled to reach around 30 people trapped in the wreckage of a passenger plane which clipped a road bridge and plunged into a river outside Taiwan’s capital Wednesday, leaving at least 11 feared dead.
It was the second serious incident involving a TransAsia Airways plane in a few months after another flight operated by the domestic airline crashed in July during a storm, killing 48 people.
Dramatic amateur video footage from Wednesday’s accident showed the TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane hit the road bridge as it banked side-long towards the water, leaving a trail of debris including a smashed taxi.
The accident happened just before 11am (0300 GMT), shortly after Flight GE235 left Songshan airport in northern Taipei en route to the island of Kinmen, with 58 people on board including five crew members.
Lin Kuan-cheng, an official at the national fire agency, told AFP that one person was confirmed dead and another 10 were showing “no signs of life”. Unconfirmed TV reports said 12 people had been killed.
A senior rescuer at the site said that 27 of the 58 people aboard — many of them Chinese tourists — had been retrieved from the wreckage.
The remaining 31 people are thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane.
“The focus of our work is to try to use cranes to lift the front part of the wreckage, which is submerged under the water and is where most of the other passengers are feared trapped,” the rescue official told reporters at the scene. READ: Divers recover AirAsia cockpit voice recorder.
China’s Xiamen Daily said on a verified social media account that there were 31 mainlanders on board, part of two tour groups from the eastern Chinese city.
“All their phones were powered off because they were on board a plane, so we haven’t been able to contact them,” the daily quoted an unnamed representative of one of the tour agencies as saying.
Xiamen is in Fujian province, which lies across the Taiwan Strait from the island.
An employee of one of the tour agencies, surnamed Wen, told AFP that it had 15 clients, including three children under 10, and a tour leader on board.
“It’s an emergency,” she said. “We’re working with different work teams. We’re trying to arrange for the relatives to go to Taiwan.”