Forty-six people were killed and 12 injured Wednesday evening when a TransAsia Airways flight crashed on an outlying island of Taiwan in heavy rain, disaster officials and the airline said.
The Taiwanese carrier's twin-engine ATR-72 turboprop originated in Taiwan's port city of Kaohsiung and crashed just before reaching the main airport in Penghu, a tourist archipelago to the northwest of the main island. The injured were taken to two local hospitals.
An official with Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration told the Los Angeles Times that Flight 222 encountered bad weather near Magong Airport in the Penghu Islands while attempting to land and crashed around 7 p.m. local time.
The 14-year-old plane crashed and caught fire while trying to make a second attempt to land in Penghu, government officials said. TransAsia, an international airline founded in 1951, previously had a clean safety record.
Fire officials and military personnel dug through the wreckage, part of which was perched on a house, past midnight to pull out bodies.
Weather over the typhoon-soaked and notoriously windy Penghu archipelago caused the accident, airline General Manager Hsi Yi-tsung told reporters.
The 72-seat plane's departure from Kaohsiung had also been delayed by bad weather, said Yuan Lan, a representative at Kaohsiung International Airport. Four of the 58 on board were crew members, Lan said.
According to flight tracking data from FlightStats.com, the plane was scheduled to depart Kaohsiung at 4 p.m. local time, and arrive about 35 minutes later at Magong.
It was Taiwan's first fatal air accident since 2002, when a China Airlines flight exploded in the air over the Taiwan straits shortly after takeoff from Taipei en route to Hong Kong, killing 225 people.
Wednesday's crash is likely to taint the Taiwanese airline and raise questions about air safety. TransAsia General Manager Hsu Yi-tsung apologized for the crash as rescue workers worked through the rainy night.
"We feel extremely sorrowful about this incident," Taiwan Premier Jiang Yi-huah told reporters.
Penghu is a popular summer vacation spot for Taiwanese tourists.
Typhoon Matmo, which swept over Taiwan earlier Wednesday, had grounded more than 100 flights, Taiwan's National Fire Agency reported.
TransAsia pledged to take family of the victims to the disaster scene on Thursday morning.
Special correspondent Ralph Jennings in Taipei contributed to this report.