Taiwan TransAsia Flight GE222 Crash Kills 47 People, Religious Leaders Urge Prayer

( [email protected] ) Jul 23, 2014 04:33 PM EDT
Taiwan Plane Crash
Rescue workers survey the crash site of TransAsia flight GE222 in Taiwan. (AP)

Over 47 are feared dead after a plane landing in inclement weather crashed outside an airport on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday.

According to BBC News, an additional 11 people were injured when the ATR-72 operated by Taiwan's TransAsia Airways left from Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan, and  crashed on Penghu, an island in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China, Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told the government's Central News Agency.

"It's chaotic [at] the scene," Jean Shen, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, told Reuters news agency.

"It was thunderstorm conditions during the crash," said Hsi Wen-guang, Penghu County Government Fire Bureau spokesman.

"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."

According to reports, the plane crashed in the village of Xixi outside the airport due to stormy weather resulting from Typhoon Matmo. Dozens of firefighters arrived at the scene, using flashlights to look at wreckage in the darkness, and buildings and cars damaged by debris. 200 military personnel also arrived at the scene to help rescue those trapped in the plane.

About 200 military personnel were sent to help recover the people who were on the plane, as well as several ambulances and rescue vehicles, Taiwanese Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Luo Shou-he said, according to the Central News Agency.

The flight had a total of 54 passengers and four crew members on board. Four of those traveling were children. A spokesperson for the Taiwanese president, Ma Ying-jeou, said he had been made aware of the crash and was saddened by the tragedy.

"We don't know the details yet, but we do know that we need to pray," said Myong Shin, a missionary in the local area. 

The flight left Kaohsiung at 4:53 p.m. for Magong on Penghu, according to the head of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, Jean Shen. The plane lost contact with the tower at 7:06 p.m. after the pilot relayed that it would make a second landing attempt.

The Guardian reports that visibility as the plane approached was 1,600 meters (one mile), which met standards for landing, and two flights had landed before GE222, one at 5:34 p.m. and the other at 6:57 p.m., the aviation agency reported.

Taiwan was hit by the typhoon early Tuesday morning, and the Central Weather Bureau warned of heavy rain through the evening, even after the center of the storm had moved west to mainland China.