A hijacked Chinese jetliner slammed into two parked jets Tuesday while trying to land at this city's airport, engulfing the planes in a ball of flames and killing at least 120 people, officials said.
A Western survivor said there was a struggle in the cockpit of the hijacked Boeing 737 as it landed at Baiyun International Airport, causing the plane to careen into an empty jet and a Boeing 757 full of passengers waiting to fly to Shanghai.Other reports said two hijackers, Chinese men who wanted to force the plane to Hong Kong, exploded a bomb as the jet landed.
"The plane split the jets into pieces,"said a Chinese man who witnessed the accident. "It was a horrible explosion. The whole sky went red and the airport shook like an earthquake."
Premier Li Peng went to the crash site near China's main city in the southeast and visited survivors at hospitals, the state-run Canton People's Broadcasting Station reported.
The station said 120 people were killed and 100 survived, including 53 who were seriously injured. It said
some foreigners and Hong Kong and Macao residents were among the survivors but gave no figures.
Although the hijacked jet was on a domestic flight, at least two Americans were aboard, U.S. Embassy spokesman Sheridan Bell said. Erin Lynne Thomas of Oklahoma City was hospitalized in good shape with a broken limb, he said. She reported that a second American woman had been sitting next to her, but Bell said that woman was missing. Businessmen from Japan and Sweden, who were on the 757 bound for Shanghai, also survived.
"The plane was snapped in half like a match stick," said a Westerner who saw the crash scene. "All that was left of the fuselage was charred metal. It looked like a crematorium."
Flight 8305 to Canton apparently was commandeered after taking off from Xiamen, a port city in Fujian province north of Canton. The plane crashed at 9 a.m.
Western diplomats said 104 people, including 10 crew members, were aboard the hijacked jet. Diplomats who checked with hospitals and airport personnel said they learned of only nine survivors.
At least another 150 people were on board the Boeing 757, an airport security official said. He said he believed "a large number" of people aboard that plane also were killed.
A minister at the Swedish Embassy in Beijing said a
Swedish businessman, Anders Larsson, was on board the Shanghai plane and saw the hijacked plane land.
The minister, Nils Eliasson, quoted Larsson as saying the hijacked plane "actually fell on top of the one he was sitting in himself." The hijacked plane flipped over and exploded, while the rear of the Shanghai plane was engulfed in flames, Eliasson said.
The first 14 rows of passengers on the Shanghai jet escaped through an emergency chute, but Eliasson said Larsson did not see any other doors open.
The Japanese and U.S. embassies said Chinese officials were unable to supply passenger lists.
The security official said that among the three planes, only five people - an airplane mechanic, an air hostess, an elderly woman, a young woman and a man - escaped the accident unscathed.
"We have at least 200 people dead or injured," he said. He said he believed the casualty tolls were higher than reported by the official Chinese media.
China's official media were slow to report the crash. Local Canton radio made its first report in the evening. The official Xinhua News Agency had its first report about eight hours after the crash.
The hijacking occurred as China was playing host to its first major international sporting event, the Asian Games. Security forces nationwide have been on alert.