Authorities in southern Canton raised the death toll to 127 Wednesday in the fiery crash of a hijacked jetliner at the city airport and reported one foreigner, an American, among those killed. But U.S. officials would not confirm it.
Chinese officials reached by telephone in Canton, also known as Guangzhou, refused to answer inquiries on the casualty figures or the investigation into the hijacking Tuesday, which led to a flaming crash as the plane tried to land.A senior Chinese official said a task force had been organized to investigate the crash but said details remained uncertain.
"The crash because of hijacking and hooligans was really a tragedy," State Council spokesman Yuan Mu told reporters at a Beijing reception.
The Chinese Boeing 737 was commandeered on a domestic flight over south China by two hijackers reportedly demanding to fly to Hong Kong. It came down at Canton's Bai Yun airport but slammed into an empty plane and another loaded with passengers, exploding in a fireball.
The Xinhua news agency reported the accident investigation team of Guangdong Province, of which Canton is the capital, released a manifest of the dead raising the toll to 127. Earlier reports said 120 had died.
Among those killed, Xinhua said, were 30 Taiwan citizens, four from Hong Kong, two from Macao and 90 mainland Chinese. It listed only one foreigner killed, saying the casualty was an American.
Two American women were known to be aboard the 737 flight from the east coast city of Xiamen to Canton. One, Erin L. Thomas, a teacher from Oklahoma City, survived and was reported in good condition in Canton's Nanfang Hospital with a leg injury.
But a spokesman for the U.S. Consulate in Canton said the second American, identified as Maryanne Gilbert, Thomas's traveling companion, remained officially missing.