Mon, May 27, 2002 - Page 1 News List

Crews scour the seas for bodies, debris

RECOVERY EFFORT Relatives of crash victims have been told there's hope of finding survivors as search teams continue to comb the wreckage of the downed China Airlines jet for clues as to its demise

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN PENGHU

A relative of a crash victim grieves on the shore at Chihkan port in Penghu yesterday. Victims' relatives that arrived in Penghu have been told there is little hope of finding survivors.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Military planes, helicopters and up to 60 vessels scouring choppy seas yesterday found 82 bodies as well as debris from the China Airlines plane that plunged into the Taiwan Strait on Saturday, but the two critical flight recorders on board have yet to be found.

Search crews have received some weak signals believed to have originated from the recorders, Minister of Transportation and Communication Lin Lin-san (林陵三) said at a press conference yesterday evening.

Navy vessels were continuing their search for the exact location of those signals yesterday, Lin added.

The two devices, the Cockpit Voice Recorder and the Flight Data Recorder, are vital in establishing the probable cause of the crash.

As of press time, search crews had found 82 bodies in the waters near the Penghu Islands and identified 36 of them.

Twenty-eight bodies were identified as of press time, of which 24 were taken away by bereaved relatives. Six were transported to Taipei yesterday evening on an Air Force Cargo C-130 that departed for Taipei's Sunshang Airport at 8:10pm.

At around 7pm, the first victim of the crash returning to Taiwan was placed in a coffin and moved into the cargo plane at the Makung Air Force base amid Buddhist chants and a soothing breeze.

"His name is Chu Yi-shun (朱義順). He is my younger brother," said a man surnamed Chu, standing at the edge of the base's bay after watching his brother's coffin get loaded onto the plane.

"He is only 37 years old," said the red-eyed Chu amid the backdrop of the Buddhist chant Homage to Amitabha Buddha (南無阿彌陀佛).

The other five victims that returned to Taiwan yesterday on the cargo plane were Cheng Ko-chiang (鄭可強), Huang Jui-cheng (黃瑞成), Huang Ying-cheng (黃英正), Lee Kam-ha (李錦霞) and Yang Chin-cheng (楊欽城).

"The bodies that have been identified so far were rather complete, with the exception of the body with code-number 3 that bore a serious a head fracture," said Chen Chon-ming (陳聰明), chief prosecutor of the Kaohsiung Prosecutor's Office, who is in charge of the examination of the bodies.

The search work, conducted jointly by 45 vessels from the navy and coast guard as well as 15 private-sector vessels, covered about 9,055km2 northeast of the Penghu Islands. The search found parts of the fuel tank, tail assembly and wing. The coast guard even recovered part of the plane's toilet, as well as several backpacks with the nametag of a travel company attached.

Throughout the day, ambulances transported gray body bags carrying crash victims to a small sports stadium at the air force base, where prosecutors, doctors and police worked against the clock to help identify the bodies.

Earlier in the day, Minister of National Defense Tang Yao-ming (湯曜明) said the rescue effort should go beyond national boundaries, adding that political considerations should not obstruct the mission.

As search crews have found that much of the wreckage and perhaps bodies have already crossed the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, Taiwan yesterday sought assistance and understanding from Beijing if further aid was needed.

"China has agreed to assist us. They agreed to inform the Cabinet's rescue coordination center here if they discover anything related to the crash," Lin said. "Then our Coast Guard Administration would go and fetch those things."

As darkness set in, 21 navy ships, 22 coast guard vessels, as well as planes and helicopters continued the search, while relatives that arrived in Penghu found there is little hope of finding survivors.

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