As shocked relatives mourned the loss of 203 loved ones in an explosive airport plane crash, Taiwan on Tuesday grounded China Airlines' Airbus fleet in hopes of finding clues to the island's worst air disaster.
With no signs of life in the mangled wreckage strewn across a residential area abutting Taipei's main airport, authorities turned their energies to identifying the dead, consoling the living - and trying to explain the inexplicable.Rescuers who combed the debris by hand through a rainy night turned to heavier equipment by day, using backloaders to gently lift away twisted chunks of fuselage and shattered homes.
Airline executives said the twin-engine Airbus A300-600R wide-body that crashed in a fireball while landing in heavy fog on Monday had recently been given a clean bill of health.
"The Airbus underwent a maintenance check in February. We found no problems. The plane was in good condition," said China Airlines spokesman Hamilton Liu.
"The chances of mechanical malfunction were very slim."
Leaving nothing to chance, Taiwan civil aviation authorities ordered China Airlines to ground its nine remaining Airbus A300-600R jets, forcing it to cancel at least six flights.
Authorities said the grounding would end once investigators were convinced of the fleet's air-worthi-ness.
At a makeshift crash-scene morgue, grieving kin in plastic protective smocks peered under long rows of white sheets to glimpse - and hopefully identify - the charred and in some cases dismembered bodies of the victims.
DNA sampling was being used to identify the unrecognizable.