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Monday, 15 April, 2002, 11:14 GMT 12:14 UK
Chinese plane crashes in S Korea
Firefighters at the scene of the crash
Smoke and bad weather are hampering rescue efforts
At least 54 people are reported to have survived the crash of a Chinese airliner into a hillside near the South Korean city of Busan.

I was awoken by a huge explosion and found I was hanging from a tree

Suh Jin-shik, survivor
The Air China Boeing 767 airliner had 166 people on board when it came down among mountains near a residential complex.

Flight CA129 from Beijing had been making its final approach to Kimhae airport.

There were 155 passengers and 11 crew on board the plane. Most of the passengers were South Korean nationals.

Poor weather

Thick smoke and bad weather at the scene are hampering rescue efforts, but one of the plane's black box flight recorders has been recovered.

The survivors, including some in a critical condition, are being treated at several hospitals in Busan and nearby Kimhae.

The BBC's Caroline Gluck in the South Korean capital, Seoul, said officials had reported low visibility around Busan on the south coast of the Korean peninsula at the time of the crash.

Other flights had been diverted because of the fog and rain in the area.

Air China said it would be the flag carrier's first fatal accident. China's regional airlines have poorer safety records.

'Roaring sound'

Civil aviation officials said the plane had crashed at about 1145 local time (0245 GMT).

Air China
Largest airline in China
More than 11,000 employees including 1,300 pilots
69 planes including 18 B-747s
Operates 114 national and international routes
Plans to list on New York and Hong Kong stock exchanges later this year

The airline in Beijing said the passengers comprised 136 South Koreans and 19 people of other nationalities, mostly Chinese.

Survivor Kim Mun-hak told local cable news network YTN that the plane had crashed shortly after an announcement telling passengers to fasten their seat belts.

"The plane crashed with a roaring sound, and I managed to come out from the plane... I saw thick smoke and blaze," he said.

Another survivor, Suh Jin-shik, said: "I was awoken by a huge explosion and found I was hanging from a tree."

Some reports suggest extreme weather conditions caused the plane to crash - accident investigators are at the scene.

Aviation officials quoted by the national news agency Yonhap said the plane was trying to land but pulled up because of strong winds. It then hit the mountainside as it turned to prepare for a new landing attempt.

Yonhap reported that rescue workers believe the tail of the aircraft hit the ground first, as most of the survivors were in the front section.

The crash comes just weeks before South Korea co-hosts the World Cup football finals with Japan.

The number of regional flights into the country has been increased to accommodate the tens of thousands of extra visitors who will be attending football matches, including large numbers from China.

The BBC's Gill Hargreaves
"Some of the injured were conscious and talking to doctors"
The BBC's Caroline Gluck
"There are very difficult working conditions"
See also:

15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Korea plane crash
15 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Air China's record blotted
12 Feb 02 | World
Air disaster timeline
22 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Double disaster hits China
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Korea
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