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China Eastern Airlines says it is deeply mourning the passengers and crew of flight MU5735.
The airline has not yet specified how many people died when the Boeing 737-800 crashed into mountains in south-east China yesterday with 132 people on board.
Boeing says it is ready to assist China Eastern and is in contact with United States transportation safety regulators over the incident.
China Eastern Airlines planes sitting at Pudong International Airport. Credit:Bloomberg
Chinese media have been broadcasting footage from a vehicle’s dashcam apparently showing a jet diving to the ground behind trees at an angle of about 35 degrees off vertical. Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.
Flight MU5735 was en route from the southwestern city of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong (which borders Hong Kong), when it crashed.
China Eastern said the cause of the crash was under investigation. Such accidents typically involve multiple factors.
The airline said it had provided a hotline for relatives of those on board and sent a working group to the site. There were no foreigners on the flight, Chinese state television reported.
Relatives, friends and colleagues of passengers gathered late on Monday in a cordoned-off area at the jet’s destination: Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.
One man with the surname Yan said that a colleague had been on the plane, and that he had notified the 29-year-old’s mother.
“When she picked up the phone, she choked up,” said Yan, adding that he had a “heavy heart” when he heard the news.
China Eastern staff are making arrangements for relatives who wish to travel to the crash site, Yan said. Reuters was unable to independently verify Yan’s identity.
The aircraft, with 123 passengers and nine crew on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, China’s Civil Aviation Administration of China and the airline said.
The plane, which Flightradar24 said was six years old, had been cruising at 29,100 feet at about 4.20pm AEDT yesterday. Two minutes and 15 seconds later, data showed it had descended to 9075 feet. Twenty seconds after that its last tracked altitude was 3225 feet.
Media cited a rescue official as saying the plane had disintegrated and caused a fire destroying bamboo trees. The People’s Daily quoted a provincial firefighting department official as saying there was no sign of life among the debris.
State media showed a piece of the plane on a scarred, earthen hillside. There was no sign of a fire or personal belongings in that picture.