Up to 100 dead as airliner crashes

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The Independent Online

Up to 100 passengers are feared dead after a Singapore Airlines plane bound for Los Angeles crashed while taking off in darkness from Taiwan's international airport today.

Up to 100 passengers are feared dead after a Singapore Airlines plane bound for Los Angeles crashed while taking off in darkness from Taiwan's international airport today.

Forty seven bodies have been found and 48 people are unaccounted for after the SIA Boeing 747-400, carrying 159 passengers and 20 crew, burst into flames shortly at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek airport, rescuers said tonight.

A further 68 people have been treated in hospital and 16 escaped injury.

It is thought the pilot may have been trying to abort takeoff.

A 90mph typhoon is heading towards the island and high winds are a suspected cause of the crash.

"The flight commander reported hitting an object on the takeoff run," the airline said in a statement in Singapore.

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

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

It is the first major crash in Taiwan since February 1998, when 202 people were killed when a China Airlies Airbus crashed in the island's worst aviation disaster.

It is believed 80 people were taken to hospital after today's accident, most with 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.

Television footage showed one side of the jet's front had been destroyed. The rear end of the aircraft and tail loomed out of the smoke on the tarmac.

Another passenger was quoted as saying he saw a woman die of her injuries in hospital.

"Several victims suffered burns. Five are in critical condition Several were in shock," a doctor at a local hospital told reporters.

Passengers said the accident happened seconds after takeoff.

"Less than 10 seconds after takeoff, the plane just fell. Then there was fire on the left side of the cabin, and then smoke everywhere," said Yu Lu-yun, a 46-year-old Taiwan businessman who was travelling business class.

State television broadcast footage of the charred wreckage of the Singapore Airlines jet, much of which had been reduced to smouldering debris.

Fire engines, ambulances and emergency crews in yellow rain gear were combing the scene, dousing the wreckage and rushing the injured to hospital.

The airport has been shut down, and all flights in and out cancelled, officials said.

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