China mourns teenagers killed in air crash

China was in mourning yesterday for two teenage girls killed when a South Korean passenger jet crashed at San Francisco airport.

President Xi Jinping on Sunday offered his condolences over the death of Chinese nationals and ordered the Chinese diplomatic missions to make all-out efforts to help the survivors.

Xi has also ordered the foreign ministry, the Chinese embassy in the United States, the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco and the Chinese embassy in the ROK to make all-out efforts to provide assistance to the injured and the other Chinese survivors.

A total of 141 Chinese citizens were among the 291 passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200, which originated in Shanghai and picked up passengers in the ROK before heading to San Francisco.

Some 182 people were injured and have been sent to nine hospitals near the airport. Forty-eight people remain in serious condition, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told reporters Saturday night.

An investigation into the cause of the accident has begun.

Final moments

With the girls the only fatalities in the crash, shocked survivors told of the flight's final moments and of their narrow escape from injury or worse.

"When the crash happened we felt we were done for. Equipment and everything was falling on our heads," a teacher from northern Shanxi province told CCTV.

But, she added, "none of us were seriously injured".

The two girls killed were Ye Mengyuan and Wang Linjia, both 16-year-old students at Jiangshan Middle School in eastern China, China Central Television said, citing a fax from the airline to the Jiangshan city government.

They were part of a group of 30 students and four teachers from the highly competitive school in Zhejiang .

Two other school groups were also on the plane.

Twenty-two students and teachers were from Taiyuan Number Five Secondary School in Shanxi, while 14 were from Taiyuan Foreign Language School. CCTV urged survivors and their loved ones to post information on the online messaging system We Chat so they could find one another.

Passenger Xu Da was sitting at the rear of the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 as it was coming in to land at the airport on Saturday.

"I was very scared when I felt the violent bangs and the sounds of the crash," he said.

"The plane flew extremely low, even as low as the sea wall, as I was looking out of the window. I felt the plane drop suddenly, but then I felt a surge of power from the back and the plane tried to ascend again," Xu said.

"I mumbled a prayer for a safe landing and held the seat tightly in front of me. All of a sudden, I heard an almighty noise from the back of the plane. Oxygen masks dropped from the overhead compartments and I smelled burning and saw flames."

He recalled that as soon as the plane came to a halt, the scene inside the cabin was one of chaos. People rushed to stand up and retrieve their luggage instead of fleeing the stricken aircraft.

"I thought something unusual had happened, but did not imagine it was so serious," he said. "However, my wife was very calm and even managed to collect some trivial stuff that fell from an overhead compartment. I urged her to hurry up, and when I turned back to put my bag over my shoulder, I saw the light coming in from outside."

Xu only realized how serious the situation was when he discovered that most of the plane's kitchen area had disappeared, leaving a huge hole.

"Without thinking, I held onto my wife and pushed my child out of the plane," he said, stressing that the passengers were calm and orderly as they followed the instructions of the cabin crew.

Another student passenger described a dark and uncomfortable scene after the crash.

"There was dust everywhere and it was very dark. The air smelled horrible. Foam was gushing in and outside the jet," he told the microblog service Tencent Weibo in an online interview.

"To be honest the first thing I thought about was to look for my glasses."

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