Taiwan launches inquiry into plane crash

Taiwan launches inquiry into plane crash
Grieving family members at Penghu island yesterday. TransAsia Airways GE222 crashed as it was preparing to land at the island’s Magong Airport on Wednesday night, when the area was being pounded by violent winds and rain.

Taiwan has launched a formal investigation into its worst air disaster in a decade, even as outrage grows over why a plane was allowed to fly in stormy weather.

A carpenter known for his traditional Taiwanese woodwork, a military police officer and two female French medical exchange students were among the 48 who died.

Also gone was a local firefighter whose colleagues cried out: "He's our brother!" as they pulled his body from the twisted carcass of the plane.

Only 10 people on the plane survived on Wednesday night when it crashed into a village on Penghu island, 260km from Taipei.

At the scene, a mother wailed: "My dearest, will you not return?" Another bit her tongue in a bloody protest when workers stopped her from looking through mangled remains to identify her child.

TransAsia Airways GE222 had 58 people on board, including four crew members, when it left the southern port city of Kaohsiung.

Originally set to take off at 4pm, the flight was delayed by Typhoon Matmo, which had slammed into Taiwan in the early morning.

At 5.43pm, GE222 was cleared to go, after the centre of the typhoon had moved on to China - though heavy rain continued.

Visibility as the plane neared Penghu was 1.6km, which met standards for landing, said the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

Deputy director-general Lee Wan-Lee said wind speeds were up to 21 nautical miles per hour, "fulfilling" take-off and landing standards. It was thus up to the pilots to decide whether to fly or land, he said.

But the twin-engine turboprop apparently proved no match for the strong winds in Penghu that even slanted the lashing rain.

As it prepared to land at Magong Airport, it was forced to pull up because of poor visibility. On its second attempt at landing, it ploughed into the village of Xixi.

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