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Breaking News

Singapore Airlines Plane With 179 Aboard Crashes in Taiwan

Aired October 31, 2000 - 11:29 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: And we have additional information now on the story that we're tracking out of Taipei, Taiwan, the crash of Singapore Airlines Flight 006.

We do know that it's a 747, and we now know there were a 179 people on board that plane. It was taking off just after 11 o'clock p.m. Taipei local time when it crashed to the ground. And now, in what appears to be a very serious aviation incident, we're getting information out of the Associated Press that the plane not only hit the runway, but ran into another plane, a China Airlines plane, that was on the runway at the Taipei airport.

A factor in this has been the weather. Flip Spiceland was telling us earlier about the typhoonlike conditions that were in the area: heavy rain, heavy wind. And of course, you have the darkness of nighttime to contend with as well.

No additional information on survivors from this flight, on either plane that would have been involved here, or casualties. We'll continue to track that.

Once again, the plane was going from Taipei to Los Angeles, to LAX, and we do have CNN crews on the way to LAX to bring us more from that end of the story.

In terms of the weather, let's bring Flip back in to give us an idea of just how bad the weather conditions would be at the time that this plane was trying to take off: 11:18 p.m. Taipei time -- Flip.

FLIP SPICELAND, CNN ANCHOR: They were very bad. The worst of it that we know of is that there was extremely heavy rainfall at the time, and because there was extremely heavy rainfall, there was very, very bad visibility.

We know of some of the winds in the area. I cannot tell you about any specific wind at that particular moment at that time.

Now, the wind speeds associated with the typhoon, Xangsane, we believe is the pronunciation, Xangsane, or Xangsane. We're not clear yet. Xangsane I believe. The wind speed at the center of the storm are at 167 kilometers an hour. That's at about 104 miles an hour.

But this graphic frozen in time indicates this bright orange area right over Taiwan, which is the worst of the storm, the heaviest convections and very heavy thunderstorms. And on the eastern side of the mountains that run right up through the center of the island, they have reported up to 300 millimeters of rainfall, which is about a foot of rain.

One other element I want to show you here -- and I'm switching on to another graphic, because it'll have to load for us here -- but what happened within the last few hours is it was moving this direction, and it turned to the north, and then it turned back to the northeast to head right toward Taiwan.

Now watch what happens here when this begins to move here. It goes like this, and then loops right back at Taiwan. Can you see that? So it kind of comes in from the back door of the system, and because the wind is spinning around it like this, a very strong easterly wind -- probably 100 miles an hour, hitting the mountains that run right up the center of the island, and all that moisture in it just being wrung out of it.

So the one element that I'm quite confident in reporting is that there was very heavy rainfall at the time. The other things, we don't know at that particular moment: how string the wind was, if there was wind shear in the area, Daryn. I can't tell you that. I can tell you there was very heavy rain and thus very bad visibility.

KAGAN: And Flip, as they continue rescue efforts, can you tell us what's headed that way?.

SPICELAND: Still bad at this time. It'll get better, but we're going to have to get a better line on what direction this is taking. If it continues on this direction that it's moving right now, it's going to remain bad for some time. But we did check, and still in the area, there are wind speeds gusting at Taipei of over 60 miles an hour and still very heavy rainfall in the area too.

KAGAN: All right, Flip. We'll cut you loose. We can go get some more information for us from our international weather center.

Meanwhile, maybe we can bring back those pictures, those early pictures we have from the site of the plane crash and recap what we do know so far: that 179 people were on board this Boeing 747, Singapore Airlines Flight 006. 11:18 p.m. Taipei time -- so last night, in terms of Taipei, this plane was taking off, heading from Taipei to Los Angeles, with 179 people on board.

As Flip has explained so well to us, the weather conditions were bad at the time. We know that rain was a factor. We know that wind could have been a factor. And of course, since it's nighttime, you have darkness as well.

The plane was taking off. There might have been some kind of wind shear involved, and it slammed into the ground. When it did, it ran into another airplane, a China Airlines -- a China Airlines plane that was on the runway at Taipei's airport and ran into that.

We do know that there was a fire and an explosion that has since been put out. What we don't know in terms of 179 people on board that Singapore Airlines flight, how many people could have survived or how many people perished in that crash.

We continue to track it. We'll bring you the latest as it comes into us here at CNN.

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