TAIPEI (REUTERS) – A TransAsia Airways turboprop plane crashed on its second attempt at landing during a thunderstorm on an island off Taiwan on Wednesday, killing 47 people and setting buildings on fire, officials said.
The plane, a 70-seat ATR 72, crashed near the runway on the island of Penghu, west of the mainland, with 54 passengers and four crew on board, they said.
No one was killed or hurt in the buildings. Eleven injured people on the plane were taken to hospital, the government said.
The aircraft took off from Taiwan’s southern city of Kaohsiung, headed for the island of Makong, but crash-landed in Huxi township of Penghu County, the main island of the chain also known as the Pescadores.
“It was thunderstorm conditions during the crash,” said Hsi Wen-guang, a spokesman for the Penghu County Government Fire Bureau. “From the crash site we sent 11 people to hospital with injuries. A few empty apartment buildings adjacent to the runway caught fire, but no one was inside at the time and the fire was extinguished.”
About 100 firefighters were sent to the scene, besides 152 military personnel and 255 police, he added.
Television images showed firefighters working at site of the mangled wreckage and soldiers on the scene, the Agence France-Presse reported.
"The whole sky turned red in an instant," one stunned Facebook user on the island described the burning wreckage, as many others wrote about hearing thundering sounds of explosion.
Typhoon Matmo slammed into Taiwan on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and strong winds, shutting financial markets and schools. It passed the island and headed into China, downgraded from typhoon to tropical storm.
TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, operating chiefly short-haul flights on domestic routes as well as to mainland China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, among its Asian destinations.