• Two pilots and three meteorological workers die, villager hurt as twin-turboprop plunges into residential area of Jian, Jiangxi province
  • City authorities conducted 75 cloud seeding missions last month in bid to tackle months of drought

By Zhuang Pinghui in Beijing

Five people were killed on Monday when the plane they were in crashed in a residential area of eastern China during a cloud seeding flight.

Three farmhouses were damaged and a villager was injured when the Beechcraft B300 King Air 350 twin-turboprop operated by Beidahuang General Aviation crashed in Jian county, Jiangxi at 3.19pm, the provincial meteorological bureau said in a statement.

Its director, Zhan Fengxing, said in an interview with Red Star News that the victims included a member of his office’s staff and two from the Heilongjiang Meteorological Bureau. The pilot and co-pilot, both of whom were employed by the aviation company, were also killed, he said.

The injured villager was being treated in hospital, and a fire caused by the crash had been put out, the statement said.

Video clips circulating on social media showed clouds or black smoking rising from one of the farmhouses, as firefighters battled to bring the blaze under control.

Zhan said local authorities were investigating the incident.

“We understand the accident took place quite some time after take-off, but the exact time needs to be verified from the aviation regulator’s logs,” he said.

“The accident will be analysed by the Jiangxi Civil Aviation Administration.”

Jiangxi has been experiencing sever draught since October and authorities in the city of Jian, which administers Jian county, have been using cloud seeding – a process by which crystals are dropped into clouds to create artificial rain – to help alleviate the problem.

The Jian Meteorological Service said the city conducted 75 cloud seeding missions in the second half of last month as the lack of precipitation and low water levels in rivers raised the risk of forest fires.