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44 dead in Laos plane crash

Dozens of people have died in southern Laos in a plane that has crashed into the Mekong River. The passengers came from ten different countries, some were from Thailand, seven were from France.

The plane, that belongs to state-run Lao Airlines, crashed in bad weather just before it was due to land at Pakse airport. A Lao Airlines statement on Facebook gave a total of 49 dead; other earlier reports put the figure at 44. The statement said there was no news of any survivors so far.

Flight QV301 from the Laotian capital Vientiane came down about 8km (5 miles) from Pakse airport. The Lao Airlines statement said there had been 44 passengers and five crew on the crashed plane.

Earlier, Thai foreign ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee said there were 39 passengers and five crew aboard the plane, citing information from the Thai Embassy in Vientiane. Thai TV showed a photograph of a plane partly submerged in shallow water, its tail severed, next to a group of rescuers in small boats, Reuters news agency said.

A foreign national living in Pakse told the Bangkok Post by email of chaotic scenes as victims’ bodies were brought in. “The Chinese Temple in front of my house has become an emergency centre,” he said.

The crashed plane is believed to be an ATR 72 – a French-Italian manufactured twin-engine plane commonly used by airlines in the region. Those on board also included five Thai nationals and three South Koreans and as well as citizens from Australia, Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, the USA and Vietnam.

The route between the capital Vientiane and Pakse is popular with the growing numbers of tourists visiting Laos, says BBC South-East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head.  Lao Airlines is small company with just 14 aircraft in its fleet and until now a good safety record, our correspondent adds.

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