DALIAN, China -- All 112 people aboard a jetliner that crashed into the sea off China's northeastern coast are dead, the airline announced Wednesday as rescuers in boats gave up a search for survivors that had lasted through the night.
The China Northern Airlines plane on a domestic flight from Beijing crashed late Tuesday just short of its destination in Dalian, a major port city.
"The 103 passengers and nine crew aboard the airliner all perished," said a letter issued by the airline that expressed condolences to the families of the dead.
Rescuers have recovered 66 bodies, most of them torn apart in the crash, said Shan Chunchang, deputy director of the national State Administration of Work Safety Supervision. He said a dredge is being used to pick up wreckage submerged under 36 feet of water.
"Our recovery efforts are made even more difficult because most of the corpses and most of the wreckage disintegrated," Shan said at a news conference.
Authorities said they were still looking for the plane's "black box" flight data and voice recorders.
The McDonnell Douglas MD-82 went down at 9:40 p.m. local time, about 12 miles from the Dalian airport after the pilot reported a fire, the official Xinhua News Agency said.
The majority of passengers were Chinese, most of whom lived in Dalian, China Northern said. It said eight of those aboard were foreigners -- three Japanese and one each from Singapore, India, France, Hong Kong and South Korea.
It was the second fatal crash in a month of a Chinese airliner and came despite extensive efforts to improve China's air safety after a string of fatal accidents in the 1990s.
An Air China plane crashed into a mountain April 15 near Busan, South Korea. South Korean officials say pilot error might be to blame.
More than 40 vessels joined the search in Dalian, the city's Sea Rescue Center said. Fishermen searched through the night using searchlights, joined later by two Chinese naval vessels.
"We sent every boat we could find," said a Dalian port authority official who gave only his surname, Liu. "When they heard the news, fishermen set off in their boats."
A policeman at an oil pier run by the Dalian Petrochemical Plant said he saw the plane flying in low circles just before the crash.
"I saw flame and light in the cabin," said the policeman, who wouldn't give his name. He said the force of the impact was like an "earthquake on the sea" and caused waves that shook patrol boats tied up at the oil pier.
The crash came at the end of China's weeklong Labor Day holiday, a time when millions of Chinese travel within the country, suggesting that many aboard were returning home for the resumption of business Wednesday morning.
Dalian is about 280 miles east of Beijing.
At the Dalian airport, China Northern set aside a lounge for relatives of victims. Reporters were barred from entering, but they saw a man inside who appeared to be in his 60s sobbing. The airline also set up a reception center in a Dalian hotel, with tables in the lobby for families to register.
One man shouted that he had lost four of his sons in the crash.
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