A plane carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members has crashed in mountains in China
A Boeing 737 plane carrying 132 passengers has crashed in mountains in China.
The China Eastern Airlines aircraft was travelling from Kunming in the western province of Yunnan to the industrial centre of Guangzhou along the east coast on Monday when it crashed and caused a fire on the mountains.
The jet involved in the accident was a Boeing 737 aircraft and the number of casualties onboard flight MU5735 was not immediately known.
Villagers were first to arrive at the forested area where the plane went down, sparking a blaze big enough to be seen on Nasa satellite images. Hundreds of rescue workers were swiftly dispatched from Guangxi and neighbouring Guangdong province.
An official from the fire service told the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily that there was no sign of life among the debris.
Videos shared online purportedly of the crash shows a massive fire and huge plumes of smoke billowing from the mountainside near Wuzhou in Teng county in southern China.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) confirmed the crash, saying there were 123 passengers and nine crew members on board.
Expressing “shock” at hearing the news of the crash, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for “all-out” efforts to organise search and rescue for passengers, state television reported.
The Boeing 737-800 departed at 1.11pm local time, according to FlightRadar24. The flight tracking ended at 2.22pm (6.22am UK time), with the plane plummeting from 29,100ft to 3,225ft before it disappeared at a speed of 376 knots a few miles south west of Wuzhou. It had been due to land at 3.05pm.
The location of the final signal was an area of tree covered hills and remote villages near to the S40 highway.
Li Xiaojin, a Chinese aviation expert, said: “Usually the plane is on auto-pilot during cruise stage. So it is very hard to fathom what happened.
“From a technical point of view, something like this should not have happened.”
US-based Boeing said it was aware of the initial reports of the crash and was “working to gather more information”.
China Eastern Airlines said the cause of the crash was under investigation and that a hotline was set up for relatives of those on board.
Photos at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, where the plane was to arrive, showed a cordoned off section for relatives of the people aboard the flight.
The jet, registered as B-1791, which first flew in 2015, was on its third flight of the day, having earlier flown from Kunming to Chongqing and back again before taking off on its flight to Guangzhou.
The twin-engine, single aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most popular planes for short and medium-haul flights. China Eastern operates multiple versions of the common aircraft, including the 737-800 and the 737 Max.
The 737 Max version was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes. China’s aviation regulator cleared that plane to return to service late last year, making the country the last major market to do so.
The Chinese website of China Eastern Airlines displayed in black and white, which airlines do in response to a crash as a sign of respect for the assumed victims.
China Eastern Airlines, based in Shanghai, is one of the country’s top airlines, serving 248 destinations domestically and internationally.
China’s airline industry safety record has been among the best in the world over the past decade.
The country’s last fatal accident was in 2010, when 44 of 96 people on board were killed when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed on approach to Yichun airport in low visibility.
“The CAAC has very rigid safety regulations and we will just need to wait for more details to help shed light on the plausible cause of the accident,” said Shukor Yusof, head of Malaysia-based aviation consultancy Endau Analytics