A plane with 58 people on board has crashed into a river after hitting a bridge in Taiwan’s capital Taipei, leaving at least 22 people dead.
Of the 53 passengers and five crew believed to be on board, 15 survivors have been pulled from the wreckage and 21 remain unaccounted for.
About 28 passengers of TransAsia Airways flight GE235 were sent to hospital, Taipei City government spokesman Sidney Lin said.
Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) showed a picture of a plane almost submerged in the Keelung river in the capital Taipei.
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Dramatic pictures taken by a motorist and posted on Twitter showed the plane veering over a motorway close to the airport soon after the turboprop ATR 72-600 aircraft took off.
Television images showed police and firemen trying to rescue passengers from the broken fuselage in the city’s Keelung River.
The twin-engine ATR 72 turboprop crashed shortly after takeoff from Taipei’s Songshan Airport, en route to Kinmen Island.
Before falling into the river, the plane avoided the tall buildings of Taipei’s Nangang district but its wing hit a bridge and a taxi on the bridge at the time, an online video showed.
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The plane lost radio contact shortly after it took off at 10.52am on Wednesday, according to the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
TransAsia Airways chief executive Chen Xinde bowed deeply at a televised news conference as he apologised to passengers and crew.
“We would like to convey our apologies to the families [of the victims] and we’d also like to voice huge thanks to rescuers who have been racing against time,” Mr Chen said.
Rescuers focus on submerged wreckage
A senior rescuer at the site said those yet to be rescued were thought to be trapped inside the submerged front section of the plane.
“The focus of our work is to try to use cranes to lift the front part of the wreckage which is submerged under the water and is where most of the other passengers are feared trapped,” the rescue official told reporters.
Earlier, television footage showed passengers in life jackets wading and swimming clear of the river with rescuers standing on large sections of broken wreckage trying to pull others out of the plane with ropes.
Thirty-one mainland Chinese tourists were among those on board, Taiwan’s tourism bureau said.
Last July, 48 people were killed when another domestic TransAsia flight crashed onto houses during a storm on the Taiwanese island of Penghu.
– with ABC