More than 40 people have been killed after a TransAsia Airways passenger plane crashed while trying to make an emergency landing in typhoon-hit Taiwan.

TransAsia Airways flight GE222 was carrying 58 people when it crashed into houses near Magong airport on the Penghu island chain after requesting a second attempt to land there, local media reported on Wednesday.

The ATR 72-500 twin turboprop was flying from the southwestern city of Kaohsiung to the islands off the west coast and had been delayed due to bad weather as Typhoon Matmo pounded Taiwan, according to authorities.

"We have found 42 bodies and some body parts so far," an official surnamed Tsai at the Penghu county fire department told AFP news agency early on Thursday.

Television images showed firefighters working in heavy rain to douse the mangled plane and soldiers on the scene.

"There were 58 people on board including four crew members, four children and, so far, according to the information we have, 12 were injured and were sent to hospitals," Transport Minister Yeh Kuang-shih told reporters.

Two French nationals were on board the plane and the de facto French embassy had been notified, Yeh said.

Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration director general Shen Chi earlier said 51 were feared dead in the crash, but later revised the figure to 47.

"The control tower lost contact with the aircraft soon after they requested a go-around," Shen told reporters.

Local fire chief Hung Yung-peng told TVBS there were 11 survivors, with all others on board feared dead.

"The weather was bad and some witnesses said there were storms and lightning when the plane went down," Hung said.

"We rushed 12 people to hospitals soon after our arrival. One died at the hospital.

"We kept searching for the other passengers from the wreckage but with more and more bodies pulled out, I'm afraid the rest of them might be dead."

Source: Agencies