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Probe launched into Taiwan plane crash
Updated: 2014-07-25

Taiwan authorities began an investigation on Thursday into the crash of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane in which 48 people were killed.

The 70-seat ATR 72 crashed on Wednesday evening near the runway while making a second attempt to land on the small island of Penghu, west of Taiwan island, after a typhoon had passed earlier in the day.

A statement from the airline on Thursday morning said the flight was carrying 54 passengers, including two French nationals, and four crew members.

Taiwan's civil aeronautics authority said 14 of the dead have been identified, while the identities of the 34 others still have to be confirmed.

President Xi Jinping, who just ended a Latin American tour, conveyed his condolences.

A statement from the State Council's Taiwan Affairs Office said Xi was in a state of "deep grief" after learning about the tragedy.

The mainland will provide help in the aftermath of the crash if needed, the office said.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou said in a statement that all of the island's people were grieving. "Today is a very sad day in the history of Taiwan aviation," he said.

Taiwan's civil aviation authorities said the weather had been suitable for flying.

"There were nine flights on the same route between 2 pm and 7 pm on Wednesday. Only the TransAsia flight crashed," said Jean Shen, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

"The weather reports showed it was totally OK for landing," she said, adding that authorities were not ruling anything out.

"We cannot say for sure what went wrong at this point. The flight safety committee has opened an investigation."

Both "black-box" flight recorders had been found and officials would begin examining them later in the day, she said.

Alison Kao, a TransAsia spokeswoman, said the weather could have been a factor but the airline was not jumping to any conclusions before the investigation.

The aircraft took off from the southern Taiwan city of Kaohsiung for Makong airport in the Penghu islands, but crashed just short of the runway on its second attempt to land during a thunderstorm.

Poor record

Typhoon Matmo hit Taiwan on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds. It later passed the island and headed for the mainland and was downgraded to a tropical storm.

Taiwan has had a poor aviation safety record over the past two decades, although this has improved recently after safety measures were tightened.

TransAsia has been involved in eight "incidents" since 2002, including this latest one, according to data on the Aviation Safety Council website.

The airline will pay compensation of 200,000 New Taiwan dollars ($6,673) for each family member on board plus a funeral subsidy of 800,000 New Taiwan dollars for each family member who died, according to its statement.

TransAsia Airways, founded in 1951, is Taiwan's first private airline, mainly focusing on the island's market and short overseas flights.

The last civilian plane crash in Taiwan was in 2002 when a China Airlines plane bound for Hong Kong crashed off Penghu into the Taiwan Straits, killing all 225 aboard.

Reuters-Xinhua-AFP