* Crash of ATR-72 turboprop leaves no survivors
* Seven French nationals among dead
* Australians, S.Koreans also killed
* Tail end of Typhoon Nari may have been factor in crash
* Aircraft was delivered from production line in March
(Adds age of plane, statement by manufacturer)
BANGKOK, Oct 16 A Lao Airlines plane flying in
stormy weather crashed into the Mekong river in southern Laos on
Wednesday, killing all 44 people on board, among them nationals
of 10 countries.
The virtually new ATR-72 turboprop plane flying from the
capital Vientiane crashed at about 4.10 p.m. (0910 GMT) just
eight kilometres (five miles) short of its destination Pakse,
which is near the borders of both Thailand and Cambodia.
The airline said in a statement it had yet to determine the
cause of the crash, in which a senior aviation official said the
tail end of Typhoon Nari may have been a factor.
Those killed were mostly Lao nationals. But seven French
nationals were also killed, the country's Foreign Minister
Laurent Fabius said.
South Koreans, Australians, Canadians, Taiwanese, Chinese,
Burmese and Vietnamese and five Thais were also among the dead,
said Thailand's foreign ministry spokesman, Sek Wannamethee.
Several officials confirmed none of the passengers or crew
Lao Airlines is the national carrier of the communist state
and has operated since 1976. Its aircraft carried 658,000
passengers last year and it has a fleet of just 14 planes,
Southern Laos was affected by Typhoon Nari, which hit the
region on Tuesday killing 13 people in the Philippines and five
Vestiges of the storm might have caused the plane to crash,
Yakua Lopangka, Director General of the Department of Civil
Aviation, told the Vientiane Times newspaper.
Thai television showed a photograph of the plane partly
submerged in shallow water on a stretch of the Mekong, the tail
severed, next to a handful of rescuers in small boats.
State-run news agency KPL quoted a witness saying strong
gusts of wind blew the plane off course and rescue attempts were
complicated by a lack of roads near the crash site.
Lao Airlines has six ATR-72 planes, a European turbo-prop
aircraft co-manufactured by Airbus parent EADS and
Italian aerospace firm Finmeccanica.
In a statement, ATR said the aircraft that crashed was its
latest ATR 72-600 model, designed to seat between 68 and 74
people. It had left the production line in March this year.
ATR said Laos authorities would lead an investigation into
the crash, whose cause had not been determined.
Lao Airlines operates on seven domestic routes and has
international flights to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and
(Reporting by Amy Sawitta Lefevre and Martin Petty; additional
reporting by John Irish and Tim Hepher in Paris; editing by John
Stonestreet and Tom Pfeiffer)