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Breaking News

Singapore Airlines Flight 006 Crash Kills at Least 47

Aired October 31, 2000 - 2:22 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: More now on the crash of a Singapore Airlines Boeing 747; a 400-series aircraft that was bound for Los Angeles which crashed seconds after takeoff in Taipei during a typhoon. And there were conflicting reports of fatalities. The earliest report from Singapore Airlines -- that there were no fatalities -- we have spoken with one passenger identified by CNN as American John Diaz who said there were definitely deaths.

And now Jason Blatt, correspondent in Taipei, who's helping us with the story, confirms there have, indeed, been deaths.

Jason, what have you discovered?

JASON BLATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest statistics announced by the transportation ministry and the by the Civil Aeronautics Administration have the current death toll at 47. It's confirmed that 47 bodies have, indeed, been taken out of the wreckage of the Singapore Airlines aircraft.

Now, there was a total of 179 persons onboard, and according to the latest information that we've received, 68 persons were said to be injured and in the hospital. Plus another 16 people who were treated for rather mild injuries and released. Now that leaves another 48 persons unaccounted for.

Now, the cabinet premier Chang Chun-hsiung just spoke to reporters outside the airport and he told them he felt very sad because there were many casualties; and at the time he felt that the number could be as high as 100.

WATERS: All right, Jason Blatt, correspondent in Taipei helping us with this story. With the government there, now -- their first indication that folks have died aboard that Singapore Airlines jetliner Flight 006; 47 dead, 68 have been injured, 16 walked away, another 48 unaccounted for. We're continuing to keep up with the story.

NATALIE ALLEN: And Orelon Sydney in our weather center has been watching closely the weather patterns over Taiwan. She's got new information about what it was like when this plane tried to take off -- Orelon.

ORELON SYDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Thanks a lot. It looks like, of course, with the typhoon making landfall in the south, one of the heavy rain bands, that's basically a collection of thunderstorms, were moving over the airport at the time of takeoff. Visibility over several hours before takeoff varied from a 1/4 to 1/2 mile. Remember, 1/2 mile -- or a mile 5,280 feet.

So at the time of takeoff you could only see about a quarter of a mile down the runway. That's only 1,320 feet. There were reports that the plane may have struck something down the runway. If that's possible, you could have an obstruction later on down the runway. You certainly wouldn't have been able to see it at the time of takeoff. The conditions that we have: 1/4-mile visibility at takeoff. The reason for the obstruction is heavy rain; 400-foot ceiling there also reported.

If we take a look at what the radar looked like at that area during the time of take off, of course, we had the very strong typhoon, about a Category 2 -- hurricane equivalent -- passing over the southern portion of the island with rain bands over the northern portion of the island. The radar now looks something like this: If you -- actually, that kind of jumped off pretty quick -- but the radar itself shows some very, very strong thunderstorms right in the area of potential takeoff.

Now that could mean very heavy rain. In some circumstances that may mean hail, but in this particular instance it looks like what happened is we had some extremely heavy rain limiting the visibility. Of course, the gusty winds were certainly a problem, but for now we're going to have to kind of wait and see what the main problem was -- if there was a visibility problem and there was something obstructing further down the runway or if, indeed, there was some sort of a wind shift, wins-shear problem that created the crash -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All right, thank you, Orelon.

We're going to talk now with Kay Yong, he is with the Aviation Safety Council of Taiwan. He joins us, now, from New Orleans.

And first of all, have you, sir, been told anything more about what contributed to this crash in Taiwan?

KAY YONG, TAIWAN AVIATION SAFETY COUNCIL: No; this is all very preliminary. I just got a call from the office that -- to confirm the deaths of, you know, one confirmed death and 93 unaccounted for. And the information you have mentioned is probably more updated than what I have.

ALLEN: Right; as we were just now learning, 47 dead from a correspondent there in Taiwan.

What can you tell us about Singapore Airlines? We've been hearing such wonderful things about their safety record and such.

YONG: Well, Singapore Airlines certainly is -- probably one of the airlines -- has the best safety record throughout the world. The, you know, the weather, the accident is -- whatever is the reason of the accident is remained to be investigated, of course.

ALLEN: And how many flights take off, land at this airport on any given day? Is it a very busy airport?

YONG: For any given day, it's approximately about 150 takeoffs from CKS airport. There are two international airports in Taiwan. One is CKS, which is where the accident occurred. Another one is down south in the Kaohsiung airport.

ALLEN: What, Mr. Yong, will be the next step for people in there, in Taiwan who will be on this investigative team? Who will make up the investigative team?

YONG: NTSB will send a team of five people which, presumably, are going to be there tomorrow, and Singapore will send another team over there. So we have put together an international investigation team according to IKONX 13 (ph). To -- for this investigation; and Taiwan, the Aviation Safety Counsel, certainly, will lead the investigation.

ALLEN: Kay Yong, we thank you for talking with us at the Aviation Safety Council in Taiwan. Thanks.

YONG: Thank you.

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