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Air Crash Death Toll Rises to 55, Safety Concerns Raised

Fifty-five people died in last Sunday's plane crash in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, one more than was originally announced, Chinese investigators said Wednesday.

In addition to 53 people on board the plane and an elderly man who was killed on the ground by fragments from the wreck, investigators have identified the remains of a woman, Gong Xilian, who was doing morning exercises when the plane crashed in the city's Nanhai Park.

Meanwhile, although the two black boxes from the plane were found on Wednesday, the cockpit voice recorder had been damaged. It is being taken to Beijing for further study, said experts at the site of the crash.

Following the accident, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China urged airlines to intensify safety checks and ensure safer flights. It dispatched task forces nationwide to check all CRJ-200 commuter planes in service. All planes of this model have been grounded pending inspection.

On Wednesday afternoon Wang Xianzheng, head of the State Administration of Work Safety, visited some of the victims' families to convey condolences from the Party and central government.
Wang, who is leading the team the State Council organized on Monday to investigate the tragedy, met three victims' relatives at the Baoli Building in Baotou City, where he briefed them on the latest developments in the investigation and government policies to deal with the aftermath.

Elsewhere, the crash has raised concerns of some passenger over the safety of regional planes, with more people indicating preferences for certain types of aircraft.

Some passengers believe that regional planes, which usually have fewer than 100 seats, are less safe than large ones since they are more affected by turbulence. But aviation experts say that regional planes have the same safety standards as the larger planes.

Meanwhile, industry experts believe the crash will do little to slow strong growth in the nation's regional flight market.

(China Daily November 25, 2004)


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