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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 November, 2004, 11:58 GMT
China plane plunges into icy lake
Wreckage from the plane
Witnesses have spoken of an explosion in mid-air
A passenger plane with more than 50 people on board has crashed into a frozen lake in northern China.

Officials said all those on board - as well as two people on the ground - died in the crash near the city of Baotou in the Inner Mongolia region.

The Shanghai-bound flight plunged into the lake shortly after take-off, apparently after exploding in mid-air, state-run Xinhua news agency said.

It was the first serious air accident in China for more than two years.

'Flaming fragments'

The China Eastern plane with 47 passengers and six crew lost contact with the control tower seconds after taking off from the industrial city of Baotou, about 600km (360 miles) west of the capital, Beijing, the news agency said.

The Canadian-built CRJ-200 jet then plunged into Nanhai Park near the airport at about 0820 local time (0020 GMT), the agency said.

It quoted witnesses as saying that the plane "broke into flaming fragments", destroying a house next to the park and several yachts.

One said he had heard a blast and the plane broke into a huge fireball in the air before plunging into the lake.

Two workers in Nanhai Park were also killed, officials said.

Xinhua said one of the dead was a foreigner, without immediately identifying what nationality.

State television showed footage of scorched wreckage sticking out of the surface of the lake.

Firefighters were cutting through - and had recovered most of the bodies, Xinhua said.

MAJOR CHINA AIR DISASTERS
21 Nov 2004: Plane plunges into frozen lake near the northern city of Baotou in the Inner Mongolia region, killing 55
7 May 2002: 112 people die when plane crashes into the sea near north-eastern city of Dalian
15 April 2002: Chinese plane crash near Busan, South Korea, kills 129 people
24 Feb 1999: Plane crashes in a field in China's coastal Zhejiang province after a mid-air explosion, killing 61

The civil aviation authority identified the plane as a CRJ-200, a small commuter jet which normally has capacity to carry 50 passengers.

"The cause of the crash is still under investigation. We're gathering passenger information at the moment," an official with China Eastern's office in Baotou told AFP.

It was the deadliest aviation disaster in China since May 2002, when 112 people died after their plane fell into the ocean near the north-eastern city of Dalian.

State media this week had highlighted the fact that there had been no serious accidents despite the surging volume of air traffic.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Footage from the crash site



SEE ALSO:
Hijacker killed on Chinese flight
27 Sep 00 |  Asia-Pacific
China crash's 'black box' found
14 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Chinese air crashes 'delay' reforms
10 May 02 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: China
26 Oct 04 |  Country profiles


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