Taiwan under fire over crashed flight

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MAGONG, Taiwan: Taiwanese officials on Thursday defended flight clearance given to a plane which crashed in torrential rain, killing 48 people, as angry relatives blamed authorities for the worst air disaster in a decade.

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The domestic TransAsia Airways flight was carrying 54 passengers and four crew members when it crashed in Magong in the Penghu island chain, with 10 survivors.

Two French medical students were among the dead, the foreign ministry in Paris said.

The ATR 72-500, a propeller plane, was flying from Kaohsiung in southwestern Taiwan to the islands off the west coast when it crashed into two houses near Magong airport, injuring five people on the ground, officials said.

Flight GE222 was attempting to land for the second time after aborting the first attempt during thunder and heavy rain as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan.

“The airline should not let the plane take off in such bad weather,” a man who gave his family name as Hsu told Agence France-Presse outside a funeral home in Penghu, his eyes and nose red from crying.

Hsu’s 28-year-old son was killed in the crash.

“The weather was so terrible and Taiwan was still under the typhoon’s influence, [the plane]shouldn’t have taken off,” the daughter of pilot Lee Yi-liang, who also died, told FTV cable news channel.

Taiwanese officials defended the decision to allow the flight to go ahead.

“Many people were questioning why the plane took off in typhoon weather . . . according to my understanding the meteorology data showed that it met the aviation safety requirements,” transport minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters.

Two planes had landed safely at Magong airport shortly before the disaster, officials said.

On Thursday, the scattered remains of the plane could be seen as more than 100 rescuers—including firefighters and soldiers—worked to remove bodies and debris from the scene.

It was unclear if all the bodies had been removed from the crash site.

A man surnamed Chen who lost six family members including his older brother in the crash was seen shouting at airline staff in Penghu.

“What happened to the plane and what was the cause [of the crash]? At the very least the [airline]should have someone on the scene to comfort the relatives,” he told TVBS news channel.

AFP

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