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Boeing 737 plane crashes into mountains in China’s Guangxi region; 132 aboard [Watch]

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 plane carrying 132 people crashed into the mountains of the southern province of Guangxi on Monday, according to China’s aviation authority.

In its statement, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said the flight carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members had lost contact over the city of Wuzhou in Guangxi. “The plane has now been confirmed to have crashed,” the agency said.

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Boeing 737 plane crashes
Boeing 737 plane crashes in China, 132 aboard

China Eastern Airlines confirmed the crash and said it was opening a hotline for the family members of those on board. The airline’s Weibo account logo was turned black and white in a sign of mourning.

Videos published by the official People’s Daily newspaper showed thick smoke above a forest and a charred clearing, with pieces of the plane scattered on the ground.

A villager told state media that at about 2:40 p.m., he heard a “huge explosion” and rushed to the scene by motorcycle. After driving for three or four minutes around the area of the crash, he did not see any victims or their remains.

State broadcaster CCTV said the number of casualties was still unknown.

The plane, China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735, was flying from Kunming to Guangzhou and was meant to arrive around 3 p.m.

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Hundreds of firefighters and search and rescue teams have been sent to the scene, according to local officials. Beijing Youth Daily, citing an official in Tengxian, a county of Wuzhou, said teams from surrounding areas had been dispatched. “Basically we have sent all the forces that we can send,” the official said, according to the paper.

If all passengers on board are confirmed dead, the crash will be China’s deadliest since 1994 when a China Northwest Airlines flight — a Soviet-built Tupolev Tu-154 — crashed in Xian, killing 160 people after the plane broke up in the air because of an autopilot malfunction.

In 1992, a China Southern Airlines flight between Guangzhou and Guilin crashed while landing, killing all 144 passengers on board.

The country’s last major plane crash was in 2010, when a Henan Airlines’ ERJ-190 regional jet, built by Embraer, overshot the runway on landing in Yichun in Heilongjiang province, and burst into flames, killing 44. The pilot was sentenced to three years in jail on charges of negligence.

China’s aviation safety record is among the best in the world after regulators reformed the industry following a string of plane crashes and hijackings in the 1990s, which earned the country a reputation of being one of the most dangerous places in the world to fly.

The plane in Monday’s crash was a Boeing 737-800 model, one of the most common passenger planes in the world and almost seven years old, according to FlightAware.

It was not the 737 Max series, which was grounded after being implicated in crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia in 2018 and 2019 and only recently returned to service in China.

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Simon Kabutey
Simon Kabutey
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