Taiwanese rescue teams are continuing to search for the 12 people who remain unaccounted for after a plane crashed in a river.
Thirty-one people are now known to have died when the TransAsia ATR-72 plane came down in Taipei’s Keelung River on February 4.
Fifteen survivors were pulled from the wreckage, including a two-year-old boy.
Taiwan’s aviation regulator has ordered all operators of ATR planes to conduct “special checks”.
Many of the passengers were Chinese tourists and China will reportedly participate in a probe into the crash.
The death toll was expected to rise as rescue teams searched the river for the missing passengers.
“This morning we have some 60 divers going underwater to search” in addition to 20 boats scouring the river, said Liu Yung-chou, from the national fire agency which is leading the rescue operation.
Aviation authorities in Taiwan said the pilot and co-pilot were among the dead.
The ATR-72 turbo-prop plane had just taken off from Taipei Songshan Airport and was heading to the Kinmen islands, just off the coast of the south-eastern Chinese city of Xiamen.
Dramatic video footage shot from inside a passing car showed the plane banking sharply before clipping a taxi and the edge of the elevated road with its wing.
The final communication from the pilots to air traffic control was “Mayday, mayday, engine flame out”, aviation officials confirmed on February 5, after an audio snippet was widely broadcast by local media.
The cause of the crash has not been identified, but the message indicates that one of the engines had stopped working – one propeller appeared from the footage to be not turning.
The aircraft ended up mostly underwater in the river, broken into several pieces. Rescue teams in dinghies ferried survivors to safety, but many of those on board were trapped inside the sunken wreckage.
Overnight, a crane hauled the half-submerged fuselage from the river.
Local media have reported the story of one escape, by a couple and their two-year-old son.
Lin Ming-wei was seated next to where the fuselage broke apart, Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) reported. Unhurt, he acted quickly to get out of his seat and help his wife scramble out of the opening.
He found his son in the water and the boy was later resuscitated. Lin Ming-wei’s wife and son are recovering in hospital, CNA reported.
TransAsia is a Taiwan-based carrier that operates domestically and on some international routes from Taiwan. Its director, Peter Chen, said the aircraft was “the newest model. It hadn’t been used for even a year”.
The plane’s flight data recorders, also known as black boxes, have been recovered.
Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration said in a statement that all 22 ATR planes being operated in Taiwan had to undergo a variety of checks including on the engines, fuel control systems and propeller systems.
Taiwan PM Jiang Yi-huah has resigned after his ruling pro-China party suffered stiff defeats in local elections.
The Kuomintang party (KMT) appears to have lost control of districts across Taiwan, including the mayor’s office in the capital, Taipei.
Saturday’s polls were widely seen as a referendum on relations with China.
KMT supporters had argued for good relations with China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province.
China and Taiwan, a close US ally, have been ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.
Jiang Yi-huah told reporters he was stepping down in order to take responsibility for the defeat.
Moments later, President Ma Ying-jeou, who is also KMT chairman, apologized to supporters “for making everyone disappointed”.
“I’ve received the message people have sent via these elections,” President Ma Ying-jeou told a news conference.
“It’s my responsibility and I will quickly offer a party reform plan to address everyone’s demands. I won’t avoid responsibility.”
The race in Taipei was watched with particular attention as a test of Ma Ying-jeou’s pro-China policy.
In the event, an independent opposition-backed candidate, Ko Wen-je, claimed victory over the KMT’s Sean Lien.
Sean Lien publicly bowed in defeat along with his solemn-faced supporters.
“We congratulate Mr. Ko,” he said in his concession speech.
“I’m sorry I didn’t win this election.”
More than 18 million eligible voters were registered to vote, choosing from among 20,000 candidates who were running for more than 11,000 positions.
Some voters fear that if the KMT is allowed to continue building strong ties with China, Taiwan may become too economically dependent on the mainland and vulnerable to its pressures to reunify one day.
They distrust the KMT, regardless of whether the deals signed with Beijing are good for Taiwan.
KMT supporters, on the other hand, feel that Taiwan needs good relations with its biggest trade partner to breathe new life into the island’s ailing economy.
They feared a victory by the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) could cause relations with China and Taiwan’s economy to regress.
The DPP supports Taiwan’s formal independence from China, something Beijing strongly opposes.
In 2016, Taiwan will hold the more important presidential and legislative polls.
Taiwan is suspending hiring Filipino workers and recalling its envoy amid a row over the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng.
Taiwan said the move showed President Ma Ying-jeou’s “strong dissatisfaction” with Manila’s handling of the case.
Hung Shih-cheng was shot by the Philippine coast guard last week in waters both sides claim.
Early on Wednesday, the Philippine envoy in Taipei apologized over the incident – after a three-day deadline set by Taiwan for an apology expired.
Antonio Basilio, head of the Philippine Representative Office in Taiwan, said Manila had agreed to compensate the fisherman’s family and conduct a joint investigation into the incident.
“The Filipino people and the government understand the hurt and grief that the Taiwanese people have felt as result of the death of one of their own fellow citizens,” Antonio Basilio said.
But the Taiwanese leader felt the apology did not come from a high enough authority and lacked “sincerity”, his spokeswoman said.
President Ma Ying-jeou had also asked Antonio Basilio to return to the Philippines to “help properly handle” the case, she added.
Taiwan is suspending hiring Filipino workers and recalling its envoy amid a row over the killing of fisherman Hung Shih-cheng
Later on Wednesday, Taiwan’s PM Jiang Yi-huah told reporters that he was dissatisfied with the apology because it came from the representative office, not the Philippine government, and because the statement had been changed several times.
“Philippine civil servants killed a person and damaged the boat, the Philippine government cannot avoid responsibility,” he said.
Taiwan has demanded a “formal apology” from Manila, compensation for the victim’s family, investigation and punishment for those responsible for the shooting, and the commencement of bilateral fishing talks.
It says it will consider adopting a second wave of sanctions against the Philippines if it does not receive a satisfactory reply by 18:00 local time on Wednesday.
These include issuing a travel warning to discourage Taiwanese people from visiting the Philippines, stopping all high-level exchanges and carrying out a military exercise in the disputed waters.
The Philippines’ special envoy Amadeo Perez is expected to arrive in Taipei on Wednesday to meet the family of the fishermen and express “deep regret and apology from the people of the Philippines”, Antonio Basilio said.
There are about 88,000 Filipino migrant workers in Taiwan, most of whom work in the manufacturing sector.
Taiwan’s labor office receives around 3,000 work applications from the Philippines each month.
Hung Shih-cheng, the 65-year-old fisherman, was shot dead on May 9 when the coastguard vessel opened fire on his boat.
He was in waters south-east of Taiwan and north of the Philippines, an area considered by both countries to be their 200 nautical mile-from-shore exclusive economic zone.
The Philippine coast guard said its crew believed he was trying to ram their vessel – claims the Taiwanese fishermen have denied.
Maritime tensions in the South China Sea have been heightened in recent months. China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei have competing territorial claims in the region.
These disputes have existed for years but in recent months China has been taking a more assertive stance – prompting a robust response from some nations.
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