An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital yesterday morning, killing all 157 on board, authorities said, as grieving families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the destination, Nairobi. More than 30 nationalities are among the dead.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash of the Boeing 737-8 MAX airplane, which was new and had been delivered to the airline in November last year.
The pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return, airline chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa, calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent. It is known as an early buyer of new aircraft as it assertively expands.
People with passports from 32 countries and the UN were on the flight that crashed with 157 on board, Ethiopian Airlines said.
Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia with nine, then Italy, China, and the US with eight each, Gebremariam said.
Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, the Netherlands five and India four. Four were UN passport holders.
The aircraft crashed six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on its way to Kenya’s capital, plowing into the ground at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, about 50km south of Addis Ababa, at 8:44am.
The airline later published a photograph showing Gebremariam standing in the wreckage. Little of the aircraft could be seen in the freshly churned earth, under a blue sky.
“Tewolde Gebremariam, who is at the accident scene now, regrets to confirm that there are no survivors,” the post on social media said. “He expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident.”
The aircraft had showed unstable vertical speed after takeoff, air traffic monitor Flightradar24 said in a Twitter post. Visibility was clear.
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