Taiwan plane crash kills 19

Plane crash

Rescuers believe several people are trapped near the head of the plane

A plane carrying mostly Chinese tourists has crashed into a river in Taiwan, killing at least 19 people.

Dramatic video footage emerged showing the TransAsia Airways plane clipping a bridge as it came down shortly after take-off from a Taipei airport.

The plane, carrying 58 people, has broken up and the fuselage is lying half-submerged in the Keelung River. Rescue efforts are ongoing.

Another TransAsia plane crashed in bad weather last July, killing 48 people.

Cindy Sui reports: ”Many of the people on board are still inside the aircraft”

Rescuers on boats have cut the plane open to gain access, attempting to access passengers reportedly trapped in the front section of the fuselage.

Television footage showed passengers swimming clear of the wreckage, with reports suggesting 15 people had survived the crash and a further 24 were missing.

TransAsia said in a statement that one passenger had already been discharged from hospital but did not confirm the number of survivors.

The ATR-72 turbo-prop plane had just taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.

The final communication from the pilots to air traffic control was “Mayday, mayday, engine flame out”, according to a recording played on local media. The recording was not immediately verified by aviation officials.

Flight controllers lost contact with the plane at 10:55 local time (02:55 GMT).

Footage of the plane filmed from inside passing cars showed it banking sharply, hitting a taxi and clipping the bridge before crashing into the river.

“I saw a taxi, probably just metres ahead of me, being hit by one wing of the plane,” an eyewitness told local media.

“The plane was huge and really close to me. I’m still trembling.”

Reports on the number of dead varied, with many citing numbers higher than the 16 confirmed by TransAsia.

TV footage showed rescuers standing on large sections of broken wreckage trying to pull passengers out of the plane with ropes.

But officials said some passengers were still trapped inside the wreckage, which appeared to be upside down.

“We’re asking the public works department for heavy cranes to be deployed in the hope that the body of the plane can be lifted up,” said Wu Jun-Hong, assistant director of Taipei’s fire department.

“At the moment, we think a lot of the trapped people are in the head of the plane.”

The plane’s flight data recorders, also known as black boxes, have been recovered. Footage from the crash site showed them in a car belonging to the rescue services.

The plane was carrying five crew and 53 passengers, including 31 tourists from the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.

TransAsia said it had contacted relatives of all the 22 Taiwanese passengers and was attempting to reach relatives of the Chinese nationals on board.

The BBC’s Cindy Sui in Taipei says the Chinese tourists could have been on their way home as many people come to Taiwan through Kinmen island.

TransAsia chief Chen Xinde offered a “deep apology” in a televised news conference, but said his planes had been “under thorough scrutiny” since mid-2014.

“Both our planes and our flight safety system are following strict regulations, so we also want to know what caused the new plane model to crash, but I don’t want to speculate,” he said.