Airliner crashes at Taiwan airport

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The Independent Online

Four people are reported dead after a Singapore Airlines plane bound for Los Angeles crashed in darkness during a storm at Taiwan's international airport today.

Four people are reported dead after a Singapore Airlines plane bound for Los Angeles crashed in darkness during a storm at Taiwan's international airport today.

The SIA Boeing 747-400 plane, carrying 161 passengers and 20 crew, was reported to have burst into flames shortly after take off at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport.

Experts believe the plane was about half-full. It is thought the pilot may have decided to abort take-off.

A 90mph typhoon is heading towards the island and high winds are suspected of bringing the aircraft down.zxx

Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd said in Los Angeles that there were no known fatalities, although this was contradicted by survivors and reports from the scene.

Civil Aeronautics Administration deputy director Chang Kuo-cheng said: "The plane burst into flames and exploded shortly after takeoff."

It is the first major crash in Taiwan since 1998. In February that year, 202 people were killed when a China Airlines Airbus A300-600R crashed in the island's worst aviation disaster.

It is believed 80 people were taken to hospital, most suffering from minor burns.

Parts of the plane's blue fuselage appeared badly charred, with a gaping hole in the roof of the forward section.

One witness said the plane did not get very high in the air before it was hit by a massive gust of wind.

Passenger John Diaz said flames "shot up right next to me" as the plane tried to take off. He said there was heavy rain at the time.

"When I got to the airport the conditions were so bad, and I asked them, "is the flight going to take off?"'

And they said, 'we do this all the time, it's fine.' I told my wife, 'I can't believe they're going to take off," Diaz said.

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