44 killed in Laos plane crash

Wednesday 16 October 2013 22.23
Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state (Pic: Google Maps)
Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state (Pic: Google Maps)

A Lao Airlines plane flying in stormy weather crashed into the Mekong river in southern Laos this morning, killing all 44 people on board, among them nationals of ten countries.

The ATR-72 turboprop plane flying from the capital Vientiane crashed at about 4.10pm (10.10am Irish time) just 8km short of its destination Pakse, near the borders of both Thailand and Cambodia.

The airline said in a statement it had yet to determine the cause of the crash.

A senior aviation official said the tail end of Typhoon Nari may have been a factor.

Those killed were mostly Lao nationals, but seven French nationals were also killed, the country's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

South Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Taiwanese, Chinese, Burmese and Vietnamese and five Thais were also among the dead, said Thailand's foreign ministry spokesman, Sek Wannamethee.

Several officials confirmed none of the passengers or crew survived.

Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state and has operated since 1976.

Its aircraft carried 658,000 passengers last year and it has a fleet of just 14 planes, mostly propeller-driven.

Southern Laos was affected by Typhoon Nari, which hit the region yesterday killing 13 people in the Philippines and five in Vietnam.

Vestiges of the storm might have cause the plane to crash, Yakua Lopangka, Director General of the Department of Civil Aviation, told the Vientiane Times newspaper.

Thai television showed a photograph of the plane partly submerged in shallow water on a stretch of the Mekong, the tail severed, next to a handful of rescuers in small boats.

State-run news agency KPL quoted a witness saying strong gusts of wind blew the plane off course and rescue attempts were complicated by a lack of roads near the crash site.

Lao Airlines has six ATR-72 planes, a European turbo-prop aircraft co-manufactured by EADS and Finmeccanica

It operates on seven domestic routes and has international flights to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore.