A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 with 132 people on board crashed in the hills of southern China on Monday., This is the country’s worst air tragedy in more than a decade.
China’s President Xi Jinping ordered “all-out rescue efforts” for survivors, with search teams dispatched to the crash site. As of Monday evening, there was no word on the casualties.
Mr. Xi said he was “shocked to learn about the incident involving China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735” and “ordered the immediate launch of an emergency response, all-out search and rescue efforts and the proper settlement of the aftermath”.
Deeply shocked: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was “deeply shocked and saddened to learn about the crash of the passenger flight MU5735 with 132 on board in China’s Guangxi.” “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the crash and their family members,” he said in a message on Twitter.
The aircraft, according to authorities, was cruising at an altitude of 8,869 meters with a speed of 845 km/h before a steep and sudden descent a little over an hour after its take-off from the Kunming airport at 13.15 local time (10.45 am IST).
Loss of radar signal was reported at 14.21 (11.51 am IST) and flight MU5735 is reported to have crashed shortly after at 14.38 (12.08 pm IST), a little over halfway through its journey to Guangzhou, aviation authorities and Chinese media reports said. There were 123 passengers and nine crew on board.
Forested hillside on fire
Images from the site, in a mountainous part of southern Guangxi province, showed a forested hillside on fire and aircraft parts strewn across the landscape.
The plane crashed near a village in Teng county, near the city of Wuzhou in Guangxi. The fire at the crash site had been put out by early evening, city officials said, adding that the Wuzhou fire brigade had deployed 117 firefighters and 23 fire trucks. More than 500 firefighters from elsewhere in the province had also been dispatched.
Last major crash
Monday’s crash is China’s biggest air disaster in more than a decade. The last major crash was that of a Henan Airlines Embraer in 2010. It crashed while on approach in foggy weather and 44 people were killed.
In 1994, 160 people died after the crash of a Tupolev aircraft. Since the 1990s, China has overhauled its aviation sector. Older aircraft such as the Tupolev have been phased out while China’s biggest airline operators such as Air China, China Southern and China Eastern largely use Boeing and Airbus aircraft. More rigorous safety standards as well as a relatively young fleet of aircraft have led to a much improved safety record in recent years.