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Breaking News

Singapore Airlines Crash in Taiwan Leaves 47 Dead

Aired October 31, 2000 - 2:52 p.m. ET

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

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The latest we are hearing on the Singapore Air crash is that 47 people have died, 48 still unaccounted for, 16 walked away from this horrendous crash, and one we understand is in serious condition in the hospital, but there is still an investigation undergoing -- being undergone right now by Singapore Airlines to determine exactly the status of the rest of the passengers.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: The flight commander reported hitting something upon takeoff. But the plane also taking off in very high winds, as a typhoon is approaching Taiwan, and Orelon Sidney has been watching that for us the past couple of hours -- Orelon.

ORELON SIDNEY, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I have.

In fact, I've got a satellite image that covers the last eight hours, this is -- or 7 hours, excuse me. This is since 8 o'clock this morning Eastern Time so it does include the time of the crash. You'll notice as we start off that we've got the center of the storm, center of the typhoon across the northern portion of the Philippines, heading right toward the eastern edge of Taiwan. This island about 230 miles long, so from tip to tip, not that far. And you do notice that some of the outer-rain bands are indeed affecting the northern portion of the island toward the time of the crash and then continuing even now.

We do know that the airport reports that come out once an hour -- if there is not a special report -- reported a quarter-mile visibility, heavy rain and a 400-foot ceiling at the time of takeoff. So if you look at the runway situation, you can only see about 1,300 feet or so down the runway, and as Carl Rochelle talked about earlier, the -- with the plane traveling 100-plus miles an hour, visibility was probably even lower than that -- very, very difficult to see in that situation.

Do bear with me, because I'm going to switch here between sources on my computer. But I did want to show you kind of a perspective of the area that we are talking about, with Taiwan continuing to be a very small island, of course, crash site there in the northern portion.

And we saved off one of the radar images from about the time of the takeoff, and this is very, very interesting. Here is the center of the storm here. Here is a rain band. Remember that rain bands are composed of individual areas of thunderstorms. Generally, when you see reds and oranges like this, it means that the reflectivity is pretty much maxed out. This is as much as we can show you of this area.

Sometimes this indicates hail, but in the case of a hurricane it's generally too warm to see hail. So what you are looking at here, extremely heavy rain and with these being individual thunderstorms the winds can be very, very chaotic. So I can't help but think visibility may have been a problem, the winds may have been a problem, though they may not be as big a factor as we earlier thought, but I certainly think that in some way this particular area of heavy rain did have an affect. We'll, of course, have to wait and see on this, because we just don't know at this point -- Natalie.

ALLEN: And as we have been mentioning, Orelon, the flight crew in the cockpit survived this crash unhurt, so investigators will be able to talk with them. The flight commander saying that the plane did hit something as it taxied down the runway, or was just about to takeoff. It was attempting this takeoff at 11:18 local time there in Taiwan at Chiang Kai-shek International Airport. That flight bound for Los Angeles, a direct flight to Los Angeles, when as witnesses describe, the plane suddenly fell to the runway, hit flat, broke into two pieces, and burst into flames as you can see there.

This jet -- loaded 747 -- loaded with fuel for the long flight, several hours to Los Angeles. Witnesses described seeing people who were burning and people with cuts as the rescue teams arrived to assess the situation. Again, the numbers we have 47 dead; 68 injured; 16 people treated and released, and 48 people still unaccounted for. Singapore Airlines is expected to hold another news conference briefly to be able to try and bring us more information.

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