ASIANEWSSOCIETY

31 confirmed dead in TransAsia plane crash

At least 31 people were confirmed dead and 12 others are still missing in Wednesday’s TransAsia Airways plane crash, the island’s response authority said late Thursday.

Another 15 people onboard the plane were injured when the ATR-72 aircraft crashed in the Keelung River at 10:56 a.m. on Wednesday after its wing clipped a taxi on an elevated freeway 10 minutes following takeoff.

Taiwan’s response authority had mistakenly announced the death toll rising to 32 with 11 people unaccounted for earlier on Thursday.

The driver of and a passenger on the taxi were also injured.

According to Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council, 22 of the dead were from the Chinese mainland. Altogether 31 passengers from the Chinese mainland, including three children, were onboard Flight GE235 which was heading for Kinmen from Taipei.

The mainland passengers were on trips organized by two travel agencies from Xiamen City in Fujian Province, Taiwan tourism authority confirmed.

Rescuers operating underwater and in rafts and helicopters are on Thursday scouring the crash site and along the Keelung River as well as its banks. The cockpit and tail of the plane have been hoisted out of the water, while some segments of the fuselage remain submerged.

The Taiwan Aviation Safety Council said it has invited accident investigators from the Chinese mainland to take part in the accident investigation.

Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman with the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said on Thursday afternoon that the mainland civil aviation authorities will dispatch investigators.

Investigators from France, producer of the aircraft, and from Canada, producer of the engine, have also been invited.

Meanwhile, TransAsia decided on Thursday to hand out compensation of 200,000 new Taiwan dollars (about 6,356 U.S. dollars) to each injured victim (including the two in the taxi), and compensation of 1.2 million new Taiwan dollars to the family of each identified fatality.

As of present, 44 family members of the mainland victims have arrived in Taiwan.

Since the crash, Taiwan’s civil aeronautics authority has conducted safety checks on power systems of the island’s ATR-72 aircraft.

Chen Deming, president of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits, expressed his hope for more efforts in the rescue and said that a work team has been sent to Taiwan to help the aftermath.

Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou visited hospitals and expressed condolences to both mainland and Taiwan families. He urged full strength in rescue and asked administrative bureaus to carry out strict inspection into the accident.

Many Taiwanese social organizations and volunteers also expressed condolences and provided rescue materials.

According to the authority, TransAsia had already completed two flights using ATR-72 aircraft on Wednesday before the crash, with flight and maintenance reports of these flights featuring no record of malfunction.

Dispatchers on duty denied the possibility of a rushed takeoff when interviewed by investigators.

Taipei Songshan Airport had canceled 11 local flights, which were all due to be served by ATR-72 aircraft, by 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, according to the airport’s website.

A cross-Strait emergency response mechanism has been launched to deal with the accident.

According to Taipei authorities, the crashed plane had been in service since April 2014 and was subject to a routine safety check last month.

TransAsia announced on Thursday that passengers who wanted to cancel their bookings would have their usual commission fees waived.

This is not the first time that an ATR-72 aircraft has crashed in Taiwan. On July 23, 2014, TransAsia Airways flight GE222 crashed on Taiwan’s Penghu Island, killing 48 people.

TransAsia Airways, founded in 1951, was Taiwan’s first private airline, mainly focusing on short overseas flights.

In a separate development, Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council’s Taiwan Affairs Office on Thursday said a planned visit by Zhang Zhijun, head of the office, to Kinmen has been delayed, as “both sides need to focus on the aftermath of the accident,” Ma said.

Zhang was originally scheduled to meet with Taiwan’s mainland affairs chief Wang Yu-chi on Feb. 7-8.

The updated date of the meeting was not revealed immediately.

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