Wreckage lies at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Sunday, March 10, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Addis Ababa:

9.21pm

A jetliner carrying 157 people crashed shortly after takeoff from the Ethiopian capital on Sunday, killing everyone aboard, authorities said. At least 35 nationalities were among the dead.  Ethiopia's parliament has declared Monday a day of national mourning after a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed, killing all 157 people onboard.

"The House of People's Representatives have declared March 11, 2019, a national day of mourning for citizens of all countries that have passed in this tragic accident," the office of Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Twitter on Sunday.

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It was not clear what caused the Ethiopian Airlines plane to go down in clear weather. But the accident was strikingly similar to last year's crash of a Lion Air jet that plunged into the Java Sea, killing 189 people. Both crashes involved the Boeing 737 Max 8, and both happened minutes after the jets became airborne.

The Ethiopian pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return to the airport, the airline's CEO told reporters.

Worried families gathered at the flight's destination, the airport in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya.

Why are they taking us round and round. It is all over the news that the plane crashed.All we are asking for is information to know about their fate.

- Edwin Ong'undi. He was waiting for news of his sister

Agnes Muilu said he came to pick up his brother. "I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it," he said.

Relatives were frustrated by the lack of information about loved ones.

"Why are they taking us round and round. It is all over the news that the plane crashed," said Edwin Ong'undi, who was waiting for his sister. "All we are asking for is information to know about their fate."

The accident is likely to renew questions about the 737 Max, the newest version of Boeing's popular single-aisle airliner.

Family members of the victims involved in a plane crash react at Addis Ababa international airport Image Credit: AP

Indonesian investigators have not determined a cause for the October crash, but days after the accident Boeing sent a notice to airlines that faulty information from a sensor could cause the plane to automatically point the nose down. The notice reminded pilots of the procedure for handling such a situation.

The Lion Air cockpit data recorder showed that the jet's airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights, though the airline initially said problems with the aircraft had been fixed before it left the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

'Don't look at the parallels'

Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons between the two crashes until more is known about Sunday's disaster.

The Ethiopian Airlines CEO "stated there were no defects prior to the flight, so it is hard to see any parallels with the Lion Air crash yet," said Harro Ranter, founder of the Aviation Safety Network, which compiles information about accidents worldwide.

As sunset approached at the crash site, searchers could be seen walking through the wreckage of the plane, which shattered into small pieces. A bulldozer was nearby.

Wreckage lies at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Sunday, March 10, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Photos from the scene showed multicolored pieces of the jet strewn across freshly churned earth. Red Cross teams and others were searching a large area for human remains. In one photo, teams could be seen loading black plastic bags into trucks.

New to flight

The airline published a photo showing its CEO standing in the wreckage.

The rout of the Ethopian Airlines B737 that reportedly crashed on Sunday Image Credit: Twitter

The Ethiopian plane was new, having been delivered to the airline in November.

State-owned Ethiopian Airlines is widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa and calls itself Africa's largest carrier. It has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent and is known as an early buyer of new aircraft.

"Ethiopian Airlines is one of the safest airlines in the world. At this stage we cannot rule out anything," CEO Tewolde Gebremariam said.

The airline said 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to be on the plane.

Ethiopian Airlines issued a list showing 35 nationalities among the dead, including 32 Kenyans and 18 Canadians. The list reflected a broad range of backgrounds, with passengers from China, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, Israel, India and Somalia. Several countries lost more than five citizens.

Some of those aboard were thought to be traveling to a major United Nations environmental meeting scheduled to start Monday in Nairobi.

The plane crashed six minutes after departing, plowing into the ground at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, at 8:44 a.m.

The jetliner showed unstable vertical speed after takeoff, air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 said in a Twitter post.

The Addis Ababa-Nairobi route links East Africa's two largest economic powers and is popular with tourists making their way to safaris and other destinations. Sunburned travelers and tour groups crowd the Addis Ababa airport's waiting areas, along with businessmen from China and elsewhere.

The jet's last maintenance was on Feb. 4, and it had flown just 1,200 hours. The pilot was a senior aviator, joining the airline in 2010, the CEO said.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 was one of 30 being delivered to the airline, Boeing said in a statement in July when the first was delivered.

Boeing said a technical team was ready to provide assistance at the request of the US National Transportation Safety Board.

The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger flight was in 2010, when a plane went down minutes after takeoff from Beirut, killing all 90 people on board.

African air travel, long troubled and chaotic, has improved in recent years, with the International Air Transport Association in November noting "two years free of any fatalities on any aircraft type."

Sunday's crash comes as Ethiopia's reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centered economy.

Ethiopian Airlines' expansion has included the recent opening of a route to Moscow and the inauguration in January of a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.

Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new "Airport City" terminal in Bishoftu - where Sunday's crash occurred.


Update: 6.12pm

Ethiopian Airlines says Ethiopian authorities, manufacturer Boeing and other international stakeholders will collaborate on an investigation into the cause of Sunday morning's crash after takeoff from Addis Ababa.

A new statement by the airline also says families of the 157 victims have been contacted and that remains will be returned to them once identified.

The cause of the crash is not yet known. The new Boeing 737-8 MAX plane had been en route to Nairobi. Victims came from 35 countries.

Family members of the victims involved in a plane crash react at Addis Ababa international airport. An Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia’s capital. Image Credit: AP

UAE leaders send condolences

Abu Dhabi: UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a cable of condolences to President Sahle Work Zewde of Ethiopia, for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane which crashed on Sunday.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, sent similar cables to the Ethiopian President.


Update: 5.11pm (UAE time)

People with passports from 32 countries and the United Nations were on the Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed with 157 on board Sunday, 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 United States with eight each, CEO Tewolde GebreMariam told reporters in Addis Ababa. Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, the Netherlands five, and India four. Four were UN passport-holders.

People walk at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, near the town of Bishoft. Image Credit: Reuters

Update: 4.51pm (UAE time)

The pilot of a Nairobi-bound Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa on Sunday, had alerted controllers "he had difficulties" and wanted to turn back the plane carrying 157 people, the head of Ethiopian Airlines said.

The pilot "was given clearance" to return to Addis, chief executive officer Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked whether there had been a distress call.


Update: 2.51pm (UAE time)

State media reported that there are no survivors from crashed Ethiopian Airlines plane.

A spokesman for Ethiopian Airlines says the among the dead in the crash Sunday are 32 Kenyans and 17 Ethiopians. Asrat Begashaw said that 31 other nationalities were also among those on board the new Boeing 737-8 MAX plane that crashed


The Ethiopian prime minister's office says a Ethiopian Airlines flight has crashed on way to Nairobi, six minutes after taking off from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on a flight to Nairobi.

Deaths were reported. It was not immediately clear if there were any survivors.

The Boeing 737 MAX, reportedly with 157 people on board, crashed en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Sunday.

Ethiopian Airlines says it believes 149 passengers and eight crew members were on board a plane that crashed.

A statement from the airline on Sunday morning said the Boeing 737 crashed around Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital, shortly after taking off at 8:38 a.m. local time.

The airline statement said “search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties.”

The Ethiopian prime minister’s office in a separate, earlier statement offered condolences to families.

Please refresh for updates.