Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Thursday, May 09, 2002

China Northern Airlines Plane Crashes

A China Northern Airlines plane plunged into the sea off the northeast coastal city of Dalian Tuesday night after its crew reported a fire in the cabin, and all 112 aboard were feared dead.
Chinese warships and tugs combed the dark waters overnight, recovering 60 bodies, but hopes of finding survivors were dim.


Rescue Work for Air Crash Underway
A China Northern Airlines passenger plane crashed Tuesday night in Dalian, a coastal city in north China's Liaoning Province.

The MD-82 airliner carrying 103 passengers and nine crew members was on flight No. 6136 from Beijing to Dalian.

At around 21:32 Beijing time, the ground control center lost contact with the plane after its captain reported that a fire broke out in the cabin.

The aircraft made several circles before suddenly plunging into the sea with its lights out, Dalian port worker Liu Jiqing was quoted as saying.

Another worker at Dalian port said he was surprised by the noise of the impact. "Ambulances and police poured in and I knew it was a crash," he said.

There was little hope of finding anyone who survived the crash -- China's second in a month.

On April 15, an Air China Boeing 767 crashed into a South Korean mountain in thick fog on route from Beijing to Pusan, killing 122 in the airline's first crash. Thirty-eight people survived and six are unaccounted for. (Feature: Air China Plane Crashes in S. Korea)

Over 60 Bodies Found
Rescue workers have found over 60 bodies by press time at the site of air crash off the coast in Dalian.

The rescue team from Liaoning maritime salvage bureau has also recovered parts of the plane wreckage.

The rescue workers found a pushcart used for serving food that has been burned black and into halves, which indicates the seriousness of the fire.

There were eight foreigners among the 103 passengers on the MD-82 plane that crashed Tuesday night.

The eight were from Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and other countries yet to be identified.

Name list of the eight foreign passengers: Yonemaru/Chiyori; Kim/Seong Woo; Wang/Si Hang; Imoto/Kosuke; Nagai/Joji; Koley/Raj Kumar; Chong/Yew Keong; Laurence/Farget.

A special investigation panel sent by the central government has arrived in Dalian to probe into the cause of the air crash.

The panel consists of a vice secretary-general of the State Council; and heads of the Ministry of Communications, the General Administration of Civil Aviation, and the Ministry of Public Security.

Relatives of crash victims, mostly local residents, have been accommodated in several hotels, anxiously waiting for any news.

Navy Joins Search
The Chinese navy force stationed in Dalian has sent four ships to help salvage wreckage of the crashed plane.

The China Northern crash brought a grim end to the week-long Labor Day holidays, during which millions of domestic travelers toured the country and airlines laid on extra flights.

A rescue official said from Dalian a flotilla of more than 30 tugs was combing the sea for possible survivors and picking up pieces of wreckage.

"It looks unlikely that we will have any survivors," a rescue official at Dalian port said.

President Jiang Zemin and Premier Zhu Rongji ordered aviation, police and transport agencies and the military to "fully organize and support rescue efforts."

At Beijing's Capital Airport, China Northern Airline workers were seen reviewing tickets and passenger lists to identify those on board the plane, but they declined to comment.

Most of the passengers were from the Yellow Sea city of Dalian. Family members gathered in city hotels to await word on the fate of their relatives.

Police had begun DNA testing to identify victims of the disaster and a State Council, or cabinet, investigation team landed in Dalian early Wednesday.

Ground controllers lost contact with the plane at 9.32 pm after its captain reported the fire in the cabin and the aircraft crashed eight minutes later, it said.

The flight left Beijing at 8:37 pm and was due to land at Dalian's Zhoushuizi Airport about an hour later.

Chris Yates, air safety expert with aviation and defense publishers Jane's, said there were many potential causes for fire in aircraft, including smoking and faulty electrical wiring.

"I imagine that investigators will consider a particular type of electrical cabling that might have overheated and caused the fire in the Chinese plane," he said.

Second Crash
It was the second deadly crash for the Shenyang-based airline, which according to China Northern's Web site had 24 MD-82s in its fleet of more than 80 aircraft.

In November 1993, an MD-82 operated by China Northern crashed while landing in the northwestern city of Urumuqi, killing 12 and injuring seven.

The plane that crashed Tuesday was delivered in July 1991 and had logged 26,000 flight hours on 16,000 flights, according to Boeing.

It was one of 35 MD-80 series jets assembled from McDonnell Douglas parts kits at a Shanghai factory. Thirty of those went to Chinese carriers and five were shipped back to US carrier TWA.

China's worst crash occurred in June 1994 when a Russian-built Tupolev-154 operated by China Northwest Airlines en route from the tourist city of Xian to Guangzhou crashed less than 10 minutes after take-off, killing all 160 people on board.

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