Tuesday, August 24, 2010

43 dead in China plane crash: state media

Posted: 24 August 2010 2345 hrs

BEIJING: A Chinese airliner crashed and burst into flames while attempting to land in northeast China on Tuesday, killing 43 people on board, state media reported.

The Henan Airlines plane overshot the runway while trying to touch down at an airport in the city of Yichun in remote Heilongjiang province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Hua Jingwei, an official with the Communist Party in Yichun, told Xinhua that 43 bodies had been recovered from the wreckage and 53 survivors taken to hospital for treatment.

Hua said the plane broke into two pieces as it approached the runway, Xinhua reported, and some passengers were thrown out of the cabin before the jet hit the ground.

There were 91 passengers, including five children, and five crew on board, Xinhua said, citing a source at the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

The crash occurred shortly after 9:30 pm (1330 GMT) near Yichun's Lindu airport, around 40 minutes after the plane took off from Harbin, the provincial capital, Xinhua said.

Television images showed teams of firefighters using hoses to douse the blazing wreckage of the aircraft.

Wang Xuemei, the vice mayor of Yichun who oversaw the rescue efforts, said most of the survivors taken to hospital had suffered broken bones.

The aircraft was an ERJ-190 jet, Xinhua said, a passenger aircraft manufactured by Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer.

A spokesman for the constructor said the company did not yet have "an official position" on the accident.

The cause of the crash was still unclear and work teams searched 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 breaks of the 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 investigation work, Xinhua said.

The CAAC has also sent a 20-strong group of technicians and officials to the scene, it said.

Lindu airport is in a forest around nine kilometres outside of central Yichun, a city of one million inhabitants around 150 kilometres from the 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 CAAC records showed Tuesday's crash was China's first major air disaster in more than five years, since a China Eastern Airlines jet crashed in Baotou City in Inner Mongolia, 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.

- AFP/ms/de

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