Seven Britons are among the 157 people killed when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed on its way to Kenya, Kenya’s transport secretary James Macharia has said.
The Boeing 737-8 MAX crashed shortly after take-off from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all passengers and crew thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said.
The plane crashed six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on its way to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Passengers included 33 nationalities, including 32 Kenyans and 17 Ethiopians and eight Britons.
The plane took off at 8:38am (0638 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 37 miles southeast of Addis Ababa. The plane came down near the village of Tulu Fara.
An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely.
An eyewitness told the BBC there was an intense fire when the plane crashed.
“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down. There are four helicopters at the scene now.” Police and troops are on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia’s civil aviation agency.
The plane showed unstable vertical speed after takeoff, air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 said in a Twitter post. Visibility appeared to be clear.
The airline said it was setting up a passenger information centre and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on board the flight.
A woman reacts as she waits for the updated flight information of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302.
Boeing, the aviation giant which produces the 737 MAX 8 aircraft, said as a company it is “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines flight 302”.
“We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the families and loved ones of the passengers and crew on board and stand ready to support the Ethiopian Airlines team,” the company said.
“A Boeing technical team is prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board.”
A flight information board displaying the details of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 is seen at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi
A flight information board displaying the details of Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 is seen at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi Credit.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted his “deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones”.
“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
The crash came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister, Therese Coffey, tweeted to say she was “very sad to hear of the crash” and the “death of all passengers on board”.
“I anticipate that several passengers will have been travelling to the UN Environment Assembly, though no one from Defra was on board. RIP,” the Conservative MP added.
In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends, and colleagues of passengers were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“I am still hoping that all is fine, because I have been waiting for my sister since morning and we have not been told anything,” Peter Kimani told AFP in the arrivals lounge over an hour after the plane was scheduled to land at 10:25am local time. His sister is a nurse who he said had gone to Congo. “She travels a lot on missions.”
“We are still expecting our loved one from Addis… we have just received news that there is a plane that has crashed. We can only hope that she is not on that flight.
Records show that the plane was new. The Planespotters civil aviation database shows that the Boeing 737-8 MAX was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in mid-November.
The Boeing 737-8 MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed into the Java Sea last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital killing all 189 people on board.