Aussies feared dead in Thai plane crash
- From: Merc Man <mercman280se@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2007 00:32:50 -0000
AT least two Australians are unaccounted for after a plane crashed in
heavy rain on one of Thailand's most popular resort islands overnight,
killing 88 people.
Parliamentary secretary to the minister for foreign affairs, Greg
Hunt, told Sky News one Australian male and one Australian female had
been indentified as missing after the crash and another Australian had
been seriously injured.
"We have reports of one Australian who has been injured. He's an older
Australian, resident of Thailand, who is undergoing an operation for
not life-threatening condition," Mr Hunt said.
"There is one Australian male and one Australian female who have been
identified as missing, so we hold grave concerns for them."
Mr Hunt said they had very few details on the two unaccounted for
Australians, but it's believed the man is from Queensland.
Phuket's Deputy Governor Worapot Ratthaseema could not immediately say
how many foreigners had died, but he said the dead included
Australian, Irish, Israeli and British passengers. He said as many as
27 of the injured were foreigners.
Flight manifests at Phuket airport suggested well over half the 125
passengers and five crew on board were foreign. An Airports of
Thailand official in Bangkok said most of the foreigners were European
Eight Britons, seven Thais and two Australians were among the
survivors, hospital workers said.
"The plane looks as though it veered off the runway into the side of a
hill," said Leslie Quahe, a Singaporean pastor who arrived at the
scene about an hour after the crash.
"I was coming down the hill and saw smoke coming from the plane. It
had broken into several parts," Quahe told Reuters.
Australia's honorary consul in Phuket, Larry Cunningham, has visited
one Australian survivor at a local hospital.
Broke in two
Officials said the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 had broken in two on impact
on landing on the Andaman Sea paradise isle, which was hit by the
December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
"The first part of the plane is dug into the ground. The tail section
is stuck on the runway," Chaisak Chai-arkad, a senior airport official
in Bangkok, told Thai radio.
TV images showed the crumpled and smoking fuselage of the One-Two-Go
flight from Bangkok surrounded by fire trucks and emergency workers.
Part of the plane could be seen in trees alongside the runway.
Descended too fast
Nong Khaonual, a Thai who survived the crash with his wife, said he
believed the plane had descended too quickly.
"The airplane was landing in heavy rain. It landed too fast. I have
never seen anything like this. It descended very fast," he told Nation
Television in hospital.
"Just before we touched the runway we felt the plane try to lift up,
and it skidded off the runway," he said.
"My wife was half conscious and I dragged her out of the emergency
exit. There was a man behind us and he was on fire."
Distraught relatives gathered at the airport, on the north-west coast
of what is Thailand's largest island, desperate for news of loved
ones. Rain continued to lash down, hampering the efforts of rescue
Foreign tour operators were also checking through passenger lists,
trying to account for dead and missing.
Another survivor, an Irishman named John, described the attempts to
land in atrocious conditions.
"You could tell there was a problem. The plane was flying around
trying to land. It was making some noises and it was bad rain," John,
who was travelling with a friend who also survived, told Thailand's
ITV television channel.
"The plane was on fire, but I managed to get through. I might have
come out on the wing," he said.
Australians unable to contact family members should call the
Department of Foreign Affairs on 1300555135.
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