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Saturday, December 12, 1998 Published at 14:41 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Grim task over

Salvage work has been hampered by mud and rain

An investigation has begun into the causes of the air crash in southern Thailand which left 101 people dead.

BBC Correspondent Stephen Gibbs: Daylight scenes of destruction
Airbus, the aircraft's European manufacturer, is sending a team of specialists to assist the Thai authorities.

Both the plane's flight recorders have now been found.

Hundreds of rescue workers laboured all day in waist-deep mosquito-infested swamp water to recover bodies. Thai officials say all passengers have now been accounted for.

Forty-five people survived the crash of the A310-200 Airbus into a swamp near the airport of Surat Thani.

[ image:  ]
There have been two other crashes involving Airbus aeroplanes in Asia in the last 15 months.

The BBC Asia business correspondent, David Willis, says this has prompted speculation that shrinking profit margins resulting from the region's economic downturn may have compromised maintenance and safety standards.

The European Consortium Airbus Industrie, based in France, said the plane was delivered in April 1986 and had accumulated 23,000 flight hours.

Officials of Thai International Airways said it was too early to speculate as to the cause of the disaster.

But one senior international air crash investigator has been quoted as saying that bad weather appears a likely cause, while pilot error cannot be ruled out.

Third time unlucky

Correspondent David Willis: "People were screaming and some were thrown around"
The Thai Airways International domestic flight from Bangkok, with 146 people on board, crashed at 7pm local time (1200 GMT) on Friday when attempting a third emergency landing in heavy rain.

People living nearby described a loud noise as the plane tried to gain height, and then a bright light followed by a fireball falling to the ground.

A flight attendant revealed to Thai television that if the third attempt to land had failed, they would have returned to Bangkok.

[ image: Airline staff check through passenger lists]
Airline staff check through passenger lists
The victims include a member of the Thai parliament and the sister of the country's transport minister.

Most of the plane's passengers are believed to be Thai, although a passenger list showed there appeared to be at least 25 foreigners on board.

The survivors are thought to include five children.

Thai pop singer Ruangsak Loichusak was one of the survivors and was shown on television walking from the wreckage.

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