A Lao Airlines plane has crashed into the Southeast Asian country’s Mekong River, killing all 44 passengers, about half of them foreigners, and five crewmembers on board, the Laotian government says.
The turboprop ATR-72, carrying passengers from 11 countries, was on a domestic flight from the capital Vientiane to the south of the country when it went down around eight kilometers from Pakse Airport in Champasak province because of bad weather on Wednesday.
"Upon preparing to land at Pakse Airport the aircraft ran into extreme bad weather conditions and was reportedly crashed into the Mekong River," the Ministry of Public Works and Transport said in a statement, adding that 44 passengers and five crew members were aboard flight QV301.
Seven French citizens, six Australians and five Thais were reportedly among the dead.
"I can now confirm, according to our reports, that all 44 people on board have died, including five Thai," Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Sek Wannamethee announced.
The Laotian official news agency, KPL, also stated that everyone on board is believed to have been killed.
"The plane was about to land but appeared to be hit by a strong wind, causing its head to ascend and pushing it away from the airport area and out of reach of the air traffic control radar," KPL quoted a witness as saying.
The Laotian government said the airline "is taking all necessary steps to coordinate and dispatch all rescue units to the accident site in the hope of finding survivors."
However, the Australian government said, "Laos authorities have told our embassy in Vientiane they do not expect any survivors.