Dozens feared dead in Taiwan plane crash
(CNN) — A twin-engine turboprop plane crashed Wednesday while attempting to land in inclement weather in Taiwan’s Penghu Islands, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency. The number of fatalities was unclear.
CNN affiliate ETTV reported that the plane crashed into a residential building.
The central weather bureau reported lightning storms at the time and winds between 40 and 45 mph, the news agency said.
The number of fatalities was unclear though officials are fearful that dozens have died. Taiwan’s Transportation Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters there were no casualties on the ground.
Injured passengers have been rushed to Penghu Hospital, and TransAsia Airways has established an emergency response center, according to a statement issued by the airline.
The Penghu Islands are off the west coast of the main Taiwanese island.
The president of TransAsia Airways, Chooi Yee-choong, appeared briefly at a news conference and bowed in front of news cameras. He choked up as he expressed his sorrow to passengers’ families and the public. “I sincerely apologize,” he said.
Fifty-four passengers and four crew were aboard, said Jean Shen, the director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
Two French passengers on board were identified as Jeromine Deramond and Penelope Luternauer. It was not known whether they survived.
Before Flight GE222 took off from Kaohsiung, Taiwan, it had been delayed because of conditions related to a typhoon, the airline said. The plane was a 72-seat twin-engine turboprop ATR 72.
“TransAsia Airways is exhausting all means to assist passengers, victims and families” and working with investigators, its statement read.
One of the plane’s black box data recorders was recovered, and investigators will examine the crash site Thursday, the minister said.
CNN is working on getting details about the crash, and has spoken with Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, which is saying only that dozens are missing and others are hospitalized. Officials caution that numbers could change.
The plane crashed near Magong Airport at about 7 p.m., according to CNA. Witnesses told ETTV that they saw homes on fire.
The cause of the crash is unknown.
Some media reports said strong winds from Typhoon Matmo, which hit Taiwan early Wednesday, forced the plane to attempt a crash landing.
Shen told reporters that visibility at Magong Airport at the time of the plane’s attempted landing was about 1,600 meters (1 mile) and considered acceptable for landing.
CNN’s Mitra Mobasherat and Elizabeth Joseph contributed to this report.