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Boeing 737 crashes in China with 132 people on board

There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash or the numbers of any dead or injured.
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A Boeing 737 with 132 people on board crashed in the mountains of southern China on Monday during a domestic flight. 

There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash or the numbers of any dead or injured.

The plane lost contact over Wuzhou during a flight between the southern cities of Kunming and Guangzhou, China Eastern Airlines and the country’s Civil Aviation Administration said. The 132 people on board included 123 passengers and nine crew members, they said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered an “all-out” rescue effort, according to the state news agency Xinhua.

Rescuers were dispatched to the crash site in the southern region of Guangxi, local officials said, while the airline and the aviation administration also said they sent working groups to the scene.

Image: China-aviation-accident
Ambulances arrive at the scene after a China Eastern plane crashed in Guangxi, China, on Monday.AFP - Getty Images

A mountainside fire sparked by the crash burned down bamboo and trees before being put out, Reuters reported citing local media. Satellite data from NASA showed a massive fire in the area where the plane went down at the time of the crash.

The flight, MU5735, left Kunming at 1:11 p.m. (1:11 a.m. ET), with a scheduled arrival time less than two hours later, according to data from the flight-tracking website FlightRadar24. It showed the aircraft rapidly lost altitude while cruising just over an hour into the flight, descending from 29,000 feet in a matter of minutes to its last tracked position.

China Eastern launched an emergency hotline for the families of those on board. One of China’s largest airlines, it carries more than 130 million passengers a year, according to its website, and has a fleet of 730 aircraft.

The last deadly crash of a civilian jetliner in the country was in 2010.

The downed aircraft, a 737-800, was delivered to China Eastern in June 2015 and had been flying for more than six years.

“My thoughts are with the families of all those caught up in this tragedy and the search and rescue teams currently responding,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a tweet.

CFM, the plane’s engine maker also extended its “heartfelt sympathies to the families and the loved ones of those on board.”

The National Transportation Safety Board has appointed a “senior air safety investigator as a U.S. accredited representative to the investigation,” which is being led by China’s Civil Aviation Administration, the NTSB said in a tweet Monday afternoon.

Representatives from Boeing, the Federal Aviation Administration and the plane's engine maker, CFM, will serve as technical advisors, the NTSB said. The agency had previously said General Electric would serve as a technical advisor, but later clarified that the company will not. CFM is a joint venture of General Electric and Safran.

Boeing, in a statement, said that it is in contact with the NTSB and that the company’s “technical experts are prepared to assist with the investigation led by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.”

Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft were grounded worldwide in 2019 after a pair of deadly crashes. A changed version of the plane made its first commercial flight in the United States after the ban in December 2020.