132 are feared dead in airline crashes


CHINA: A China Northern Airlines jet carrying 112 passengers and crew crashed into the sea off the coast of Dalian, north China, yesterday,with all on board feared dead.

Shortly before, an EgyptAir Boeing 737-500, with around 62 passengers and crew on board, crashed as it was attempting to land at Tunis airport, killing at least 20 people.

Witnesses reported seeing the Chinese airliner plunge into the sea shortly after ground control lost contact with flight 6136 from Beijing to Dalian, and after its captain had reported a fire in the cabin.

More than 50 bodies were recovered last night from the Yellow Sea off Dalian, a coastal city in Liaoning province about 310 miles north-east of Beijing, the Xinhua news agency said last night.

"The rescue work is still under way but it is estimated that there is little hope of any survivors," the agency said, adding that more than 30 boats were involved in the search.

The captain of the MD-82 airliner reported a fire in the cabin and shortly afterwards ground control crew lost contact with the airline, it said.

Mr Liu Jiqing, a loader at Dalian port, said he saw no lights on the airliner when it came down around 12 miles east of the city's airport. He said he "saw a plane making several circles before suddenly plunging into the sea".

The flight was carrying 103 passengers and nine crew, a spokesman for China Northern Airlines said. This included eight foreign passengers.

Xinhua said the foreigners were from South Korea, Japan and "other countries yet to be identified". Most of the passengers were Dalian residents.

The crash is the second involving a Chinese airline in little more than three weeks.

On April 15th, 129 people died when an Air China Boeing 767 crashed into a mountain near the southern city of Busan in South Korea.

A witness to the EgyptAir crash said the plane came down in the Nahli area of Tunis in wet and foggy weather.

The mountainous crash site was difficult to reach, but rescue workers managed to get to the scene to evacuate the injured.

"At least 20 of the passengers have died," one of the rescue workers said.

A senior Tunisian government official said some of the passengers on the EgyptAir flight 843 had survived, and 13 had been taken to hospital.

Cairo airport officials had said the airliner had been carrying 55 passengers and crew. However, Egypt's ambassador in Tunis, Mr Mahdi Fathallah, said there were 55 passengers and eight crew members. - (AFP, Reuters)