No survivors found after crash of Boeing 737 carrying 132 people in southern China

No survivors have been found more than 18 hours after a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people crashed into a forested mountainous area on Monday in China’s worst air disaster in a decade.

“The wreckage of the plane was found at the scene, but so far none of the people on board the plane with whom contact was lost have been found,” the channel said on Tuesday morning. of public television CCTV.

The Boeing 737-800 crashed near the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi region while flying from Kunming in the southwest province of Yunnan to the industrial hub of Guangzhou along the east coast. It started a fire large enough to be seen in NASA satellite images.

The crash created a deep pit in the mountainside, Xinhua news agency reported, citing rescuers. The report said drones and a manual search would be used to try to find the black boxes, which contain flight data and cockpit voice recorders critical to crash investigations.

A base of operations has been set up near the crash site with rescue vehicles, ambulances and an emergency power supply truck parked in the narrow space. Camouflage-clad soldiers joined helmeted rescue workers in orange coveralls to comb through the charred crash site and surrounding dense vegetation.

The steepness of the slope made it difficult to position heavy equipment, although with few large pieces of the aircraft remaining there seemed little need to use them.

China Eastern Flight 5735 was traveling 842 km/h at around 9,144 meters when it entered a steep and rapid dive around 2:20 p.m. local time, according to data from flight tracking website The plane dived to 2,255 meters before briefly regaining an altitude of about 366 meters, then dived again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds later when it was just southwest of Wuzhou, a city of three million people.

It was about an hour into the flight and approaching the point where it would begin to descend into Guangzhou, when it dived downward.

Local villagers were the first to arrive in the wooded area where the plane crashed. Hundreds of rescue workers were quickly dispatched from Guangxi and neighboring Guangdong province.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a “total effort” in the rescue operation, as well as an investigation into the crash and ensuring the full safety of civil aviation.

In this photo released by Chinese news agency Xinhua, debris is seen at the site of a plane crash in Tengxian County in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Tuesday. The public television channel says no survivors have been found. (Zhou Hua/Xinhua via Associated Press)

The Boeing 737-800 has “an excellent safety record”

Relatives of the crew members arrived at a China Eastern office near Kunming airport where the plane took off, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

In an emailed statement, Global Affairs Canada said it “is currently in contact with local authorities to determine if any Canadian citizens have been affected.”

“Our thoughts and sympathy go out to those affected by the China Eastern Airlines plane crash in China,” the statement said.

At a hotel near the airport, a dozen people, some wearing jackets identifying them as members of China’s aviation agency, crowded around tables and read through documents.

A piece of wreckage from China Eastern Flight MU5735 is seen after it crashed on Monday. (Xinhua/Associated Press)

All of the more than 100 737-800s in China Eastern’s fleet are grounded, China’s Transport Ministry said. Without knowing when they could fly again, the grounding could potentially further disrupt already curtailed domestic air travel as China faces its biggest coronavirus outbreak since the initial peak in early 2020.

Aviation experts said it is unusual to ground an entire fleet of planes unless there is evidence of a problem with the model. China has more 737-800s than any other country – nearly 1,200 – and if identical planes from other Chinese airlines are grounded, it “could have a significant impact on domestic travel”, the official said. IBA aviation consultant.

Boeing 737-800s have been flying since 1998 and Boeing has sold more than 5,100. They have been involved in 22 crashes that totaled the planes and killed 612 people, according to data compiled by the Aviation Safety Network, an arm of the Flight Safety Foundation.

In this image from video footage broadcast by China’s CCTV, emergency personnel prepare to move to the plane crash site near Wuzhou. (CCTV/Associated Press)

“There are thousands of them around the world. It certainly has an excellent safety record,” foundation president Hassan Shahidi said of the 737-800.

The plane was not a Boeing 737 Max, the planes which were grounded around the world for nearly two years after fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

China’s aviation safety record has improved since the 1990s as air travel has increased dramatically with the rise of a burgeoning middle class. Before Monday, the last fatal accident of a Chinese airliner occurred in August 2010, when an Embraer ERJ 190-100 operated by Henan Airlines hit the ground short of the runway in the city of Yichun, in the northeast, and caught fire. Forty-four of the 96 people on board were killed. Investigators blamed pilot error.

The US National Transportation Safety Board tweeted on Monday that it had selected a lead investigator to help investigate the crash. The US Federal Aviation Administration, which certified the 737-800 in the 1990s, said it was ready to help with the investigation if asked.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. said it is in contact with US investigators “and our technical experts are ready to assist with the investigation by the Civil Aviation Administration of China.” Boeing shares fell 3.6% when trading in New York. The safety board said engine manufacturer CFM, a joint venture between General Electric and France’s Safran, would provide technical assistance on engine problems.

Accident investigations are usually conducted by officials from the country where the accident occurred, but usually include the aircraft manufacturer and the investigator or regulator from the manufacturer’s home country.

Shahidi said he expects investigators to review the aircraft and engine maintenance history, pilot training and records, air traffic control discussions and other matters. .

One of the most popular aircraft in the world

Based in Shanghai, China Eastern is one of the country’s top three airlines, operating dozens of domestic and international routes serving 248 destinations.

The aircraft was delivered to China Eastern by Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for over six years. China Eastern Airlines uses the Boeing 737-800 as one of the main workhorses of its fleet – of its more than 600 aircraft, 109 are Boeing 737-800s.

Both the CAAC and China Eastern said they sent officials to the crash site in accordance with emergency measures.

A China Eastern worker holds a sign waiting to drive relatives of those on board flight MU5735 to a cordoned off area of ​​Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangdong province on Monday. (Chinatopix/Associated Press)

China Eastern gave its website a black and white homepage after the crash.

The crash quickly became a major topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, with 1.34 billion views and 690,000 discussions. Many messages expressed their condolences to the families of the victims.

The twin-engine single-aisle Boeing 737 is one of the world’s most popular aircraft for short- and medium-haul flights.

The 737 Max, a later version, was grounded around the world for nearly two years after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people. In December, China’s aviation regulator cleared the Max to return to service, making the country the last major market to do so, although Chinese airlines have yet to resume flying the Max.

The deadliest accident involving a Boeing 737-800 occurred in January 2020, when Iranian paramilitary Revolutionary Guards shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight, killing all 176 people on board.