Jet crashes in China with 132 on board

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A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 600115.SS with 132 people on board crashed yesterday on a domestic flight in the mountains of southern China after suddenly falling from cruising altitude. Media said there were no signs of survivors.

The airline said it was deeply mourning for passengers and crew, without specifying how many people had been killed.

President Xi Jinping urged investigators to determine the cause of the crash as soon as possible, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

Chinese media showed brief freeway video footage from a vehicle’s dashcam, which appeared to show a jet dove to the ground behind trees at an angle of about 35 degrees from vertical. Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.

The plane was en route from the southwestern city of Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, when it crashed.

China Eastern said the cause of the crash, which saw the plane crash at 31,000 feet per minute, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24, is under investigation.

The airline said it had set up a hotline for relatives of those on board and dispatched a task force to the scene. There were no foreigners on the flight, Chinese state television reported, citing China Eastern.

Media quoted a rescue official as saying the plane disintegrated and caused a fire that destroyed bamboo trees. People’s Daily quoted a provincial fire department official as saying there was no sign of life among the rubble.

State media showed a piece of the plane on a scarred mound of earth. There was no sign of fire or personal effects.

The plane, with 123 passengers and nine crew members on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, the China Civil Aviation Administration (CAAC) and the airline said.

The flight departed Kunming at 1:11 p.m., data from FlightRadar24 showed, and was scheduled to land in Guangzhou at 3:05 p.m.

The plane, which Flightradar24 said was six years old, flew at 06:20 GMT at 29,100 feet. A little over two minutes and 15 seconds later, data showed it had descended to 9,075 feet.

Twenty seconds later, his last tracked altitude was 3,225 feet.

Crashes during the cruise phase of flights are relatively rare, although this phase accounts for most of the flight time. Boeing said last year that between 2011 and 2020 worldwide, only 13% of fatal road accidents occurred during the cruise phase, while 28% occurred on final approach and 26% on landing.

“Normally, during the cruising phase, the aircraft is on autopilot. So it’s very difficult to understand what happened,” said Li Xiaojin, a Chinese aviation expert.

A Boeing spokesman said: “We are aware of the initial media reports and are working to gather more information.”

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