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197 feared dead as Taiwan jetliner crashes in fog

A China Airlines Airbus A-300 jetliner returning from the holiday resort Bali crashed short of Taipei's airport in a night fog Monday, then skidded into houses and cars, and burst into flames.

All 197 passengers and crew on the plane were feared dead. The official Central News Agency said nine people, including a 2-month-old baby, were killed on the ground.Eyewitnesses said the plane hit the ground several hundred yards short of the runway at Chiang Kai-shek airport, which is located about 24 miles west of Taipei, skidded into houses along a highway, slammed into a rice paddy and erupted in flames.

Rescue workers on the scene said they had given up looking for survivors, but the deputy director-general of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, Chang Kuo-cheng, said he still hoped to find survivors among the 182 passengers and 15 crew.

TV footage showed firefighters trying to put out flames in windows and doors of a building, and piles of wreckage. Bodies were found in pieces, many charred beyond recognition.

The crash, the worst in the airport's history, was under investigation. It came after Taiwan's flagship carrier embarked on an extensive safety campaign that followed a crash in Japan in 1994 that claimed 264 lives.

The twin-engine Airbus crashed while attempting to land on a second approach at about 8 p.m. (5 a.m. MST) at the airport's northern runway, China Airlines reported.

Among the passengers on flight CI-676 were Sheu Yuan-dong, governor of Taiwan's Central Bank, his wife, and four other finance officials returning from a conference in Bali. They included Chen Huang, head of the bank's Department of Foreign Exchange, and Chien Chi-min, head of the Department of Economic Research.