Thai rescuers try to retrieve bodies from plane wreck
By Jacqueline Wong
PHUKET, Thailand (Reuters) - Heavy monsoon rain hampered (阻礙) the retrieval of five bodies trapped in the wreckage of a budget airliner (廉價航空) that crashed while trying to land on the Thai resort island of Phuket, killing 88 people.
Investigators on Monday also sifted through (調查) the charred (燒成黑) wreckage of the McDonnell Douglas MD-82 that veered (改變方向) off the runway, smashed into a wooded embankment (築堤) and burst into flames as it tried to land during a fierce monsoon (印度季風) storm the day before.
"We still cannot clear the wreckage because of the continued heavy rains. We are moving a crane (起重機 , 吊車) to the site and are trying to reopen the airport as soon as possible. Half a day should be enough," Deputy Transport Minister Sansern Wongcha-um said.
"We have retrieved about 83 bodies," he told Reuters. "There are still another five."
Flights on national carrier Thai Airways to Phuket were cancelled.
The Indonesian captain and his Thai co-pilot were both killed, but 42 people survived a crash likely to raise more safety questions about the dozens of budget carriers that have sprung up across Asia in the last decade.
Five survivors were in critical condition, with burns to 60 percent of their bodies, hospital officials said. Fourteen Thais, eight Britons, five Iranians and four Germans were among those injured.
The island, dubbed the "Pearl of the Andaman", suffered major devastation in the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
Emergency workers were quick to retrieve the "black box" flight data recorder. Much of the crash investigation is likely to focus on the weather as the plane, flown by Bangkok-based low-cost operator One-Two-Go, was coming in to land.
The Bangkok Post newspaper quoted a senior aviation official as saying the pilot told the control tower he was aborting the landing because he could not see the runway.
Survivors spoke of torrential rain and trees bent over in the wind.
"The pilot tried to bring the plane back up. He started to turn right and made a sharp turn right and then the plane went into the embankment," Millie Furlong, a 23-year-old waitress from Canada, told Reuters in hospital.
"I saw the grass and knew we were going to crash. It was very quick."
Udom Tantiprasongchai, chairman of One-Two-Go parent company Orient Thai Airlines, said the pilot was experienced.
"Police will set up an investigating committee to find out what actually caused the accident. What we need to do right now is take care of the injured," he told reporters on Sunday evening. "I'm deeply sorry about this tragic event."
Despite a number of crashes and scares, most recently in Indonesia, analysts say there is no hard evidence to suggest budget carriers are more accident-prone (易產生意外的) than their full-service competitors.
So far, the only foreigner confirmed dead in the crash is French. There has been no word on other nationalities, although in a country that welcomes more than 12 million tourists a year, they are likely to be from every corner of the globe.
Airports of Thailand said there were seven crew and 78 foreigners on board, most of them European holidaymakers. (假日遊客)