China: No survivors found yet in plane crash; rescue efforts continue

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, March 22, 2022, 10:24 AM IST
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This photo taken on March 21, 2022 shows part the wreckage of a China Eastern passenger jet which crashed onto a mountainside in Tengxian county, Wuzhou city, in Chinas southern Guangxi region. | (Photo by AFP) / China OUT

No survivors have been found as the search continued Tuesday of the scattered wreckage of a China Eastern plane carrying 132 people that crashed a day earlier in a forested mountainous area in China's worst air disaster in a decade.

There is no official announcement here yet on the fate of the 123 passengers and nine crew members as hopes receded about finding any survivors, considering that the plane crashed and exploded in a mountainous area.

There is no news of the location of black box, which may provide information about what caused the crash.

The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 aircraft, which departed from Kunming and was bound for Guangzhou, crashed into a mountainous area near Molang village in Tengxian County in the city of Wuzhou at 2:38 pm, causing a mountain fire, according to the regional emergency management department.

No survivors have so far been found, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday.

Boeing said it is cooperating with China Eastern Airlines to probe the crash.

Hundreds of rescuers scurried the mountainous forest area throughout the night to find any survivors and to collect the debris.

The crash shattered China's airlines record of over 100 million continuous hours of safe flight as of February 19.

The last domestic fatal air accident was in 2010, when an Embraer passenger plane crashed in Yichun, Heilongjiang province, killing 42 people.

Boeing China on Tuesday said it is in contact with the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, adding that its technical experts are ready to aid the Civil Aviation Administration of China in conducting the investigation into the incident.

Eye witnesses said the plane exploded after the crash.

"I heard the roar of a plane on the other side of the hill. A second later, there was an explosion," a worker near the crash site told the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Chen Weihao, a villager, was working on a farm when he saw the plane nosedived.

"The plane looked to be in one piece when it nosedived. Within seconds, it crashed," Chen said, adding that the crash site was a gap in a mountain where no one lives.

Villager Shi Fuxiong said he saw a large pit at the crash site and surrounding trees within dozens of metres had been levelled. "There were many pieces of small debris of the plane and baggage, but no large pieces of wreckage," he said.

In his instructions issued soon after the incident, President Xi Jinping said he was "shocked" to learn about the crash involving China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 from Kunming to Guangzhou.

He ordered the immediate launch of emergency response, all-out search and rescue efforts and proper settlement of the aftermath.

Vice Premier Liu He and State Councilor Wang Yong led officials to guide the rescue work, proper settlement of the aftermath and investigation into the crash.

The fire has been extinguished and the rescue operation is underway, said Chen Jie, an official from the regional emergency management department.

Over a thousand firefighters have been sent to the area to carry out the rescue operation.

"There is some plane wreckage in a gap in the mountain," a rescue worker at the crash site told Xinhua. "There are pieces of the wings, one of them about 2 or 3 metres. There is other debris, with some probably being pieces of clothing," the rescue worker said.

China Eastern Airlines said it has initiated an emergency response mechanism under which it established nine special working groups for aircraft disposal, accident investigation, family assistance, logistics support, legal support, public relations, security, financial insurance, and cargo disposal.

The airline said the cause of the accident will be fully investigated.

China Eastern Airlines -- one of China's three major air carriers -- has grounded its all Boeing 737-800 after the crash on Monday, company officials said. PTI KJV SCY

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