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The BBC's Damian Grammaticus
"High waves on the Yangtze"
 real 28k

Thursday, 22 June, 2000, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Double disaster hits China
The plane is thought to have been hit by lightning
All 42 passengers and crew were killed when a Chinese domestic aircraft crashed into a suburb of the central city of Wuhan.

The Wuhan Airlines flight reportedly crashed around 1500 (0700 GMT) in heavy rain.

In Sichuan province, 13 people died and 46 people are missing after an overloaded ferry capsized on a fast-flowing stretch of the Yangtze river.

A semi-official Chinese news agency said 61 survivors were pulled from the water after the ferry carrying people to a market near the city of Luzhou sank.

Internal flight

The Wuhan Airlines plane is thought to have been hit by lighting and exploded in mid-air as it was coming in to land.

Major air crashes
May 1997 - Southern Airlines Boeing 737 crashes at Shenzhen, killing 35
June 1994 - Northwest Airlines Tupolev 154 crashes after take-off at Xian, killing 160
July 1993 - Northwest Airlines BAe-146 crashes near Yinchuan, killing 55
Nov 1992 - Southern Airlines Boeing 737 crashes in southern China, killing 109
Jan 1988 - Engine failure downs Ilyushin-18 in Sichuan, killing 108

However, other reports spoke of the plane breaking up on impact with the ground.

A spokeswoman for Wuhuan Airlines said flight W343 was bound for Wuhan from the city of Enshi in the west of Hubei province.

She said the plane was a Chinese-made Yun-7 passenger jet.

China has been trying to improve its poor aviation safety record since a series of accidents in the early 1990s mostly involving long-serving Russian-made Tupolev aircraft.

Chinese officials have tried to limit the use of Russian aircraft.

The 58-seater Yun-7 is a copy of the Russian Antonov-24, and first came into service in 1984.

One industry official said they had mostly been phased out in favour of imported Boeing and Airbus planes, and there were fewer than 20 left in use in China.

Heavy fog

The Yangtze ferry floundered soon after dawn near Luzhou in heavy fog.

"The boat capsized just before it arrived in port. The captain was struggling with very bad visibility and when the boat overturned nearly all the passengers were thrown into the water," said one eye-witness.

The strong current quickly swept the stricken vessel 3km (two miles) downstream.

Passenger ferries in China are often overloaded and accidents are common.

This is the second major boat capsize in the region in the past 10 days.

Up to 40 people are missing and presumed dead after a boat capsized on 15 June on the Jialing River near the central Chinese city of Nanchong, also in Sichuan province.

Earlier in June, a vessel carrying 26 tourists sank in Dongting Lake in Central China, killing three and leaving six missing.

In November, 280 people were drowned when a ferry caught fire and capsized in freezing conditions off the coast of Shandong in one of China's worst shipping disasters in recent years.

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