TAIPEI, July 24 (Reuters) - Taiwan authorities said on Thursday it was unlikely bad weather was the cause of the crash of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane the previous day in which 48 people, including two French nationals, were killed.
The plane, a 70-seat ATR 72, crashed near the runway while trying to land on the small island of Penghu, west of Taiwan island, after a typhoon had passed earlier in the day.
The leaders of rivals China and Taiwan both expressed condolences over the deaths. Ten people were injured and taken to hospital.
Taiwan's civil aviation authorities said the weather on Wednesday had been suitable for flying and they were trying to determine the cause of the crash.
"There were nine flights on the same route between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. yesterday. Only the TransAsia flight crashed," said Jean Shen, director of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.
"The weather reports showed it was totally OK for landing. We can not say for sure what went wrong at this point. The flight safety committee has opened an investigation ... they will complete an official report within a year."
Shen said authorities were not ruling anything out. Both black boxes had been found and officials would begin examining them on Thursday, she said.
The aircraft took off from Taiwan's southern city of Kaohsiung, headed for the airport of Makong, but crash-landed during a thunder storm in Huxi township of Penghu County, the main island of a chain known as the Pescadores. .
No one on the ground was hurt.
Airline seats and life jackets were strewn around the crash site and the roof of a nearby building was destroyed.
Victims' families were heading to Huxi to mourn, officials said.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said in a statement all of the island's people were grieving.
"Today is a very sad day in the history of Taiwan aviation," Ma said.
China's president, Xi Jinping, who is on a Latin America tour, felt "deeply grieved" after learning the tragedy has caused heavy casualties, the mainland's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement, according to the Xinhua news agency.
The mainland and Taiwan have been rivals for decades, with the mainland regarding Taiwan as a renegade province, though commercial relations have grown in recent years.
Typhoon Matmo hit Taiwan on Wednesday, bringing heavy rain and strong wind, shutting financial markets and schools. It later passed the island and headed into China, downgraded from typhoon to tropical storm.
Taiwan has had a poor record for aviation safety over the last two decades, though it has improved recently after the government tightened up safety measures.
TransAsia had been involved in eight "incidents" since 2002, including this latest one and an earlier fatal accident, according to data on the website of the Aviation Safety Council.
The other fatal accident was in 2002 when a cargo plane carrying two pilots crashed into the sea. The pilots did not respond appropriately to ice accumulated on the wing surface, it said.
TransAsia and bigger rivals, China Airlines and Eva Airways, have been facing pressure from higher energy prices and increasingly popular budget airlines.
TransAsia Airways is a Taiwan-based airline with a fleet of around 23 Airbus and ATR aircraft, operating chiefly short-haul flights on domestic routes as well as to mainland China, Japan, Thailand and Cambodia, among its Asian destinations.
Shares of TransAsia Airways ended down 5.5 percent after opening 7 percent lower. The main index rose 0.3 percent. (Additional reporting by Michael Gold in Taipei and Pichi Chuang in Pengu; Editing by Robert Birsel)
BEFORE YOU GO
07/23/2014 1:38 PM EDT
PHOTO: Family Member Reacts To News Of Crash
A relative of a passenger on the Taiwan domestic TransAsia Airways flight GE222 that crashed on the Taiwan island of Penghu reacts at the flight's departure airport in Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, late Wednesday, July 23, 2014. (AP Photo)
07/23/2014 1:26 PM EDT
TransAsia Airways issued an apology over the deadly crash, Focus Taiwan reports:
Speaking to reporters on a live press conference, a spokesman for the local airline got choked up and bowed in "apology for the unfortunate incident."
Chooi Yee-choong, the spokesman, said the airline will provide assistance to the families of the victims.
07/23/2014 1:13 PM EDT
AP Releases Photos Of Wreckage
Rescue workers survey the wreckage of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 which crashed while attempting to land in stormy weather on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, late Wednesday, July 23, 2014. A transport minister said dozens of people were trapped and feared dead. (AP Photo/Wong Yao-wen)
Rescue workers work next to the wreckage of TransAsia Airways flight GE222 which crashed while attempting to land in stormy weather on the Taiwanese island of Penghu, late Wednesday, July 23, 2014. A plane landing in stormy weather crashed outside an airport on a small Taiwanese island late Wednesday, and a transport minister said dozens of people were trapped and feared dead. (AP Photo/Wong Yao-wen)
Seen in a raining downpour, a vehicle is covered in rubble from the wreckage from a Taiwan domestic airline that crashed while attempting to land in typhoon weather on the Taiwan island of Penghu, 150 kilometers, (93 miles), off Taiwan in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and mainland China, late Wednesday, July 23, 2014. Local officials say the domestic airline carrier Trans Asia flight GE 222 crashed on landing with many people feared dead and some injured. (AP Photo/Wong Yao-wen)
07/23/2014 12:32 PM EDT
Taiwanese Transportation Minister Heads To Penghu
Yeh Kuang-shih is en route to Penghu, the island near Taiwan where the TransAsia Airways flight crashed during an emergency landing.
07/23/2014 11:51 AM EDT
Black Box Recovered?
A Taiwanese official said that at least one of the plane's black boxes has been recovered, Channel NewsAsia reported.
07/23/2014 11:46 AM EDT
Bloomberg: Taiwan Aviation Official Confirms 47 Dead In TransAsia Crash
BREAKING: Taiwan aviation official confirms 47 dead in TransAsia crash— Bloomberg News (@BloombergNews) July 23, 2014
07/23/2014 11:45 AM EDT
Malaysia Airlines Tweets Support For TransAsia
Our thoughts are with all those on board TransAsia Airways #GE222, their families and loved ones.— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) July 23, 2014
A Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over Ukraine last week, killing nearly 300 people on board. Months earlier, a Malaysia Airlines plane went missing on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
07/23/2014 11:38 AM EDT
TransAsia Spokesman Breaks Down On Camera
A spokesman for TransAsia Airways broke down crying on live TV while apologizing for the incident, The Wire reported. The airline said on Wednesday that it will conduct a full investigation into the incident.
07/23/2014 11:37 AM EDT
Map Shows Where Plane Crashed
This map shows the exact spot where the TransAsia Airways plane crashed during an emergency landing.
07/23/2014 11:28 AM EDT
Taiwan Government: Plane Crashed Due To Mechanical Failure
According to Civil Aeronautic Administration, the aircraft was a ATR 72 short-haul regional airliner and had been in commission for 14 years. The flight was originally scheduled to take off at 4 p.m. but was asked to stay grounded until 5:43 p.m. due to inclement weather caused by typhoon Matmo.
According to the CAA, the aircraft experienced technical failure and was unable to land properly. After panning in the air for a while, the plane was forced to make an emergency landing at Xihu Village in Penghu.