A Malaysian Airline plane had touched down and tried to take off again before it crashed into a shantytown, news reports said Saturday.
Thirty-four of the 53 people on board the Fokker F-50 were killed, including the pilot and co-pilot. Nineteen survived Friday’s crash in the seaside town of Tawau, 725 miles east of the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
About 420 people were homeless, but officials said there were no fatalities from the squatter colony. The Malay Mail newspaper, however, said many squatter residents may still be buried under the wreckage.
The families may be refusing to talk about missing kin because of their illegal status, the Mail said.
Malaysian Airline chairman Tajudin Ramli said the twin-turboprop overshot the runway while landing and exploded in the shantytown.
He said the 5-year-old aircraft had been serviced on Wednesday and no technical problems were found. The weather and visibility were good Friday.
“We are not aware that any distress signal was sent out,” Ramli told reporters.
Officials refused to speculate if the crash was caused by pilot error.
The Star newspaper quoted flight attendant Kamarul Bahrain as saying: “As we were touching down, I felt the left side of the plane hit the ground. I heard a small explosion.
“The plane went up again and there was a louder explosion,” Kamarul said. “We hit the ground again.”
The pilot tried to take off again but could not, due to insufficient power. The plane then hit the end of runway and bulldozed into a row of shacks at the edge, the Star said.
The Dutch-made plane was at the end of its one-hour flight from the Malaysian resort town of Kota Kinabalu on the island of Borneo.
Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik said the flight data recorder or “black box” will be sent to experts in Britain for analysis to try to determine what happened in the last few minutes of the flight.
Two experts from the airline arrived in Tawau early Saturday to survey the disaster site and conduct preliminary investigations, the Malay Mail reported.
Reports said the houses beyond the runway were unauthorized slums built by illegal immigrants from the Philippines and Indonesia.