China mourns students from Zhejiang school killed in San Francisco air crash
Chinese passengers give accounts of final moments of Asiana Airlines flight that crashed at San Francisco airport and burst into flames
Agence France-Presse and Stephen Chen
China was in mourning yesterday for two teenage girls killed when a South Korean passenger jet crashed at San Francisco airport.
Many reached out to their families, only too aware of the impact of the loss of an only child.
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".
Chinese nationals made up 141 of the 291 passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines Boeing 777, which burst into flames after it landed short of the runway. Of those on board, 182 were 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.
Xu Da, a Chinese passenger on board the plane - which originated in Shanghai and picked up passengers in South Korea before heading to the United States - described the dramatic incident to CCTV.
"I noticed the plane was flying quite low when landing, and as it was just about to land the plane suddenly accelerated and the nose started to rise," he said.
"But at the time the plane was flying extremely low already. I felt a shock. The oxygen masks fell down and a bad smell began to spread throughout the plane. I could also see sparks in the front part of the plane."
Once the plane landed the cabin was a "mess", the back of the plane had a large hole and the galley there had disappeared, he wrote on Sina Weibo.
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."
Xu and his wife quickly collected their belongings - some of which had been strewn about - and rushed out of a makeshift exit at the back of the airliner.
"I saw light at the back of the plane. We pulled our child and rushed there, finding most of the galley was gone. We got out from a huge, perfectly round hole."
"I feel very fortunate," he wrote.
Social media users also offered condolences for the two girls killed on board.
"In a country of families with mostly single children, how can the parents take this?" wrote one on Sina Weibo, referring to China's one-child policy. "Life is supposed to have just started for them," said another user.
Li Nan, a resident in Beijing's Xicheng district, said that she cancelled a weekly party with friends yesterday because everyone felt sad for the students who were killed.
"I couldn't sleep after watching the news on TV late last night. I dare not imagine how big a blow it would be to [the students'] parents," she said.