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Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crashes killing 157

AFP  |  Bishoftu(Ethiopia) 

A Nairobi-bound crashed minutes after an early-morning takeoff from Sunday, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including four Indians, tourists, business travellers, and at least one delegate to a UN meeting.

Amid a global stream of condolences, many gathered in tears at (JKIA), as the victims' identities started to emerge.

"It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife, Blanka, son and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in this morning," wrote on

People from 35 countries and one UN passport-holder were on board flight ET 302 when it ploughed into a field 60 kilometres southeast of on what the airline's Tewolde GebreMariam labelled a "very sad and tragic day".

An eyewitness told AFP the plane came down in flames.

"The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion," Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site, littered with passenger belongings, human remains, and airplane parts around a massive crater at the point of impact.

"I was near the river near the Shortly after the crash police and a fire crew from a nearby air force camp came and extinguished the plane's flames on the ground," Dechasa said.

"The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash." 737-800MAX was brand new, delivered to state-owned on November 15, said the carrier, Africa's largest.

The plane is the same type as the Indonesian jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board. Foreign governments said tourists, business people, doctors, and a Kenyan were among the dead.

Also on board was at least one staff member of the meeting in from Monday for an annual assembly of 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and representatives.

"As many of you have already heard, at least one of our colleagues is unaccounted for," UNEP said in a message to staff, adding more losses are feared.

said the plane had taken off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from and "lost contact" six minutes later.

It came down near Tulu Fara village outside the town of

The carrier, which changed its logo on to black and white from its trademark green, yellow, and red, said "there are no survivors".

"We can only hope that she is not on that flight," Peter Kimani, who had come to fetch his sister at Nairobi's JKIA, told AFP after of the disaster reached those waiting in the arrivals hall.

Loved ones were later brought to the onsite where they were debriefed and offered counselling. Journalists were not allowed in, but could hear sobbing from inside.

said had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by with 18, nine, then Italy, China, and the with eight each.

Britain and each had seven people on board, six, and five.

Twelve countries in and 14 in had citizens among the victims.

spoke of "utter shock and immense sadness", while Mahboub Maalim, of the IGAD East African bloc, said the region and the world were in mourning.

"I cannot seem to find words comforting enough to the families and friends of those who might have lost their lives in this tragedy," Maalim said in a statement.

Sympathy messages also came from the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Britain and

GebreMariam said the plane had flown in from earlier Sunday, spent three hours in Addis and was "despatched with no remark", meaning no problems were flagged.

Asked if the had made a distress call, the said "the mentioned that he had difficulties and he wants to return. He was given clearance" to turn around.

The senior captain, Yared Getachew, had some 8,000 flight hours under his belt.

Ethiopian and American investigators will probe the crash, said GebreMariam.

The last major accident involving an passenger plane was a that exploded after taking off from in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew.

For one family member waiting in there was a happy ending. was waiting for his son who works in and feared the worst when a told him the plane had crashed.

"I was shocked, but shortly after, my son contacted me and told me he is still in Addis and did not board that flight, he is waiting for the second one which has been delayed.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Sun, March 10 2019. 22:50 IST