Plane plows into neighborhood outside Taipei, 205 reported dead

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — A China Airlines jet trying to land in fog crashed into a country neighborhood Monday, ripping the roofs off houses before skidding into a rice paddy and erupting in flames. Authorities said all 196 aboard and nine people on the ground were killed.
China Airlines said the dead included the governor of Taiwan’s Central Bank and other key financial officials; Taiwanese families returning from vacations in Bali; and four Americans. Victims on the ground included a 2-month-old baby.
Witnesses said the airliner hit hundreds of yards short of the runway at Chiang Kai-shek airport, 25 miles west of Taipei. It tore through the second floors of homes strung along a highway before sliding to a stop in flames.
The fiery impact scattered charred bodies and body parts along the road and throughout the sparsely populated area, home to fish farms, small factories and warehouses. The smell of jet fuel and burning rubber lingered hours after the crash. Only the tail of the broken, burned jet was recognizable.
Authorities sealed off the neighborhood, leaving families of passengers to congregate at hospitals and the airport. Relatives broke into tears and fell into one another’s arms as the extent of the disaster hit them; one woman collapsed to the floor.
Rescue workers on the scene said they had given up looking for survivors, but the deputy director-general of Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration, Chang Kuo-cheng, said he still hoped to find survivors among the 182 passengers and 14 crew members.
Airport officials said two flight data recorders were recovered and were being analyzed to help determine the cause of the crash.
The twin-engine Airbus went down while attempting to land on a second approach at 8:09 p.m. local time at the airport’s northern runway, the Taipei-based China Airlines reported.
Heavy fog was reported around the airport throughout the afternoon and evening, and a light rain was falling at the time of the crash.
Tsai Tuei, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, resigned to take moral responsibility for the crash, which was the worst in the airport’s history. It came after Taiwan’s flagship carrier embarked on an extensive safety campaign that followed a crash in Japan in 1994 that claimed 264 lives.
The airline has had four other crashes since 1986. After the 1994 Nagoya crash, it embarked on an extensive safety program that included pilot retraining.