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Pilot survives South Korea crash

Emergency efforts are shifting from searching for survivors to locating victims' bodies at the South Korean crash site.
Emergency efforts are shifting from searching for survivors to locating victims' bodies at the South Korean crash site.  

SEOUL, South Korea (CNN) -- Investigators are ready to begin examining the flight data recorders recovered from Air China Flight 129, a day after it crashed into a mountain near the southern port city of Busan.

Investigators also plan to interview a Chinese pilot, identified by Korean television as Wu Xin Lu, one of 38 survivors. Another person who initially survived the crash died in hospital overnight.

By Tuesday morning, rescuers were still searching for nine people; another 119 were confirmed dead.

The Boeing 767 was on a nonstop flight from Beijing, when it crashed in heavy fog and rain. The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, which was aiding in the crash investigation, said the flight had been diverted from Busan to Seoul because of bad weather.

CNN's Sohn Jie-Ae reports heavy rains are hampering rescue efforts in the search for survivors of an Air China jet that crashed near Busan, South Korea

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A number of other international flights were turned back from the airport Monday morning because of poor visibility caused by the weather.

The plane crashed near apartment buildings, but there were no reports of casualties on the ground. Survivors reported no explosion before the crash.

"When I looked back there was fire," said one man who escaped from the plane. "I don't know whether it was an accident or not. There was some kind of hole in the ceiling so I just came out of that hole."

Television footage showed the plane broken in half and in flames.

China's official news agency, Xinhua, said 135 of the passengers were Korean, 19 were Chinese and one was Uzbek. Airline officials said they could not confirm these numbers.

The rescue mission is expected to be long and arduous, with heavy rain continuing to hamper emergency efforts.

Poor weather -- including rain, fog and strong winds -- was believed to be among the factors in the accident, but it was too early to identify the exact cause, authorities said.

Many international and domestic flights had been turned back or diverted due to deteriorating weather before the crash.

Transportation officials said they had recovered a flight recorder, which they hope will offer more details on the cause of the crash.

Rescue workers pulled some of the passengers off the plane shortly after the crash.

'I saw fire at the tail'

Several survivors described how they fled to safety.

From his hospital bed, one survivor said that he lost consciousness when the plane crashed.

"When I came to, I saw fire at the tail. There was a little hole on the left side so I slid through there," he said.

The crash is the first on record to cause fatalities in the state-owned flagship carrier's 47-year history.

The airline, which has a fleet of 69 planes operating 114 routes, is the largest air carrier in China in terms of traffic volume and company assets, according to Air China's Web site.

-- CNN Seoul Bureau Chief Sohn Jie-Ae and CNN producer Lisa Rose Weaver contributed to this report.


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