Grim search for victims, flight recorders after China's first plane crash since 2010

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Hope starts to fade as rescuers in China searched for survivors from the 132 people aboard the passenger jet that crashed in the mountains.
  • Parts of the Boeing 737-800 jet were strewn across mountain slopes charred by fire, leaving burnt remains of identity cards, purses and wallets 
  • The China Eastern Airlines flight was en route from Kunming to Guangzhou when it suddenly plunged from cruising altitude and crashed.


    Rescuers in China scoured heavily forested slopes on Tuesday with hopes fading of finding any survivors from the 132 people aboard a China Eastern Airlines passenger jet that crashed a day earlier in the mountains of southern Guangxi.

    Parts of the Boeing 737-800 jet were strewn across mountain slopes charred by fire after China's first crash involving a commercial jetliner since 2010. Burnt remains of identity cards, purses and wallets were also seen, state media reported.

    Flight MU5735 was en route from the southwestern city of Kunming, capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou in Guangdong province bordering Hong Kong, when it suddenly plunged from cruising altitude and crashed.

    Chinese media carried brief highway video 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.

    State-run Beijing Youth Daily quoted a local resident as saying:

    The plane fell vertically from the sky. Although I was far away, I could still see that it was a plane. The plane did not emit smoke during the fall. It fell into the mountains and started a fire.


    State media have described the situation as "grim", and that the possibility of all onboard perishing could not be ruled out.

    A working group from the Chinese aviation regulator was deployed to the crash site, alongside fire rescue and paramilitary forces.

    Vice Premier Liu He left for Wuzhou city in Guangxi on Monday night to oversee the rescue efforts and crash investigation after an emergency government meeting.

    The State Council, or the cabinet, said it would identify the cause as soon as possible, and strengthen checks into potential safety hazards in the civil aviation sector.

    Describing the difficult terrain, state media said the crash site is hemmed in by mountains on three sides, with access provided by just one tiny path. Rain was forecast for the area this week.

    Authorities barred journalists and onlookers from approaching the site. An official at a checkpoint at Lu village in Teng county told Reuters that they were keeping the road clear for emergency service vehicles.

    Abrupt descent

    US-based aviation analyst Robert Mann of R.W. Mann & Company said investigators will need the flight data recorders to understand what might have caused the abrupt descent suggested by Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) data. ADS-B is a technology that allows aircraft to be tracked.

    The crash comes as Boeing seeks to rebound from several overlapping crises, including the coronavirus pandemic and crashes involving its 737 MAX model. The voice cockpit recorder could also yield clues to what went wrong once it is found.

    "Accidents that start at cruise altitude are usually caused by weather, deliberate sabotage, or pilot error," Dan Elwell, a former Federal Aviation Administration head, told Reuters.

    Elwell, who led the FAA during the 737-MAX crisis, said mechanical failures in modern commercial jets were rare at cruise altitude.

    China Eastern and two of its subsidiaries on Monday grounded its fleet of 737-800 planes, state media reported. The group has 225 of the aircraft, data from British aviation consultancy IBA shows.

    flight crash,aviation crash
    The wreckage of a China Eastern passenger jet which crashed onto a mountainside in Tengxian county, Wuzhou city, in China's southern Guangxi region.

    Other Chinese airlines have yet to cancel any of their flights that use 737-800 aircraft as of Tuesday, according to data from Chinese aviation data provider Flight Master.

    "Given Boeing's problems with the 737 MAX, there is some chance that consumers may not want to fly on a 737 until the cause of the China Eastern crash is determined not to be a design or manufacturing issue," Cai von Rumohr, an analyst at investment bank Cowen Inc, said in a note.

    Onshore-listed shares of China Eastern slumped more than 5% on Tuesday, while those trading in Hong Kong fell 4% in early morning trade.

    The last crash of a commercial jetliner in China was in 2010, when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed, killing 44 of 96 people on board.


    Never miss a story. Choose from our range of newsletters to get the news you want delivered straight to your inbox.

    We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
    In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
    Subscribe to News24
    Voting Booth
    Are you going to keep wearing a mask following the announcement that it is no longer required under law?
    Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
    Results
    No ways, I'm done
    39% - 4615 votes
    Yes, I still want to be cautious
    26% - 3003 votes
    Only certain circumstances
    35% - 4125 votes
    Vote
    Rand - Dollar
    16.09
    -1.4%
    Rand - Pound
    19.60
    -0.7%
    Rand - Euro
    16.93
    -0.9%
    Rand - Aus dollar
    11.12
    -1.3%
    Rand - Yen
    0.12
    -0.9%
    Gold
    1,819.88
    -0.2%
    Silver
    20.81
    -1.7%
    Palladium
    1,874.89
    +0.1%
    Platinum
    913.50
    +0.2%
    Brent Crude
    115.09
    +1.7%
    Top 40
    61,789
    +0.4%
    All Share
    68,058
    +0.3%
    Resource 10
    66,069
    +0.9%
    Industrial 25
    80,452
    +0.3%
    Financial 15
    15,394
    -0.2%
    All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
    Editorial feedback and complaints

    Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

    LEARN MORE