SCMP Friday, June 23, 2000

42 killed in Wuhan plane crash

VIVIEN PIK-KWAN CHAN and AGENCIES


A domestic airliner flying in a thunderstorm crashed in central China yesterday, killing all 42 people on board.

"There were no survivors among those on the plane," an official said. There were no casualties on the ground, he added.

Flight WU-343, operated by Wuhan Airlines, was on a flight to Wuhan from the city of Enshi in Hubei province.

The domestically manufactured 54-seat Yun-7 aircraft, carrying 38 passengers and 4 crew, came down at 3pm in a sparsely populated suburb, an official at the city's Wangjiadun Airport said.

Xinhua said the plane crashed at Sitai village, Yongfeng township of Hanyang district in Wuhan. It was descending for landing when lightning struck and the aircraft exploded. A fire services official in the Wuhan suburb of Hanyang said the plane broke into pieces on impact. "Some bodies are badly burnt and would be difficult to identify."

Half the plane plunged into a farmer's house and the other came to rest next to the Han River.

Hubei provincial vice-party secretary and Wuhan party secretary Luo Qingquan and Wuhan Mayor Wang Shouhai arrived at the crash scene to take charge.

Wuhan leaders had ordered an investigation into the tragedy, and a contingency team has been set up to help relatives of the victims to identify the bodies.

The Yun-7 aircraft is a short-range twin turboprop plane manufactured by the Xian Aircraft Industrial Company.

It was the second reported mid-air explosion involving the ageing propeller-driven Yun series, which were once the mainstay of China's civil aviation fleet but have now been largely retired.

In 1997, a Yun-12 operated by Mongolian Airlines exploded as it was trying to land at an airport in Mongolia, killing seven of the 12 people on board. The following year another Yun-12 crashed in Mongolia, killing 28 people.