Disasters & Accidents

Rescue efforts continue after China passenger plane crash

Update 1: Adds flight cancellations

Beijing, Mar 22 (EFE).- Rescue efforts were continuing on Tuesday in Tengxian county of the southern Chinese province of Guangxi, where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 crashed with 132 people on board.

So far there are no signs of survivors or the black boxes.

The plane departed Kunming at 1.15 pm on Monday for Guangzhou before crashing in Guangxi at 2.38 pm.

No official source has clarified whether foreigners were traveling on board the plane.

The crash sparked a forest fire in the area, which is difficult for rescue teams to access due to its rugged terrain and remote location.

The fire was extinguished on Monday evening and the rescue teams were able to approach the crash site, where they continued working through the night.

The People’s Liberation Army, as the Chinese military is called, mobilized 80 soldiers to assist in the rescue work in the early hours of Tuesday.

More than 700 firefighters from the local province and another 500 sent by the neighboring Guangdong province are also engaged in the search and rescue efforts.

“There are pieces of the wings, one of them about 2 or 3 meters. There is other debris, with some probably being pieces of clothing,” a rescue worker told state news outlet Xinhua.

The Guangxi health commission also dispatched 36 ambulances and over 80 medical workers to the area to treat possible survivors while Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is at the site, overseeing the operations.

“The plane looked to be in one piece when it nosedived. Within seconds, it crashed,” a local resident said, according to Xinhua.

According to data from FlightRadar24, at 2.19 pm, the aircraft was flying at an altitude of 29,100 feet (8,870 meters) when, about 55 kilometers west of the city of Wuzhou, it began to drop.

The last point of contact with the flight, according to the website, was at 2.22 pm about 25 kilometers southwest of Wuzhou, at an altitude of 3,225 feet (989 meters), which would mean that the plane plunged almost 8,000 meters in just three minutes.

Other witnesses referred to the sound of the explosion.

“I heard the roar of a plane on the other side of the hill. A second later, there was an explosion,” a worker near the site of the incident told Xinhua.

The plane crash, the first in China since 2010 when 44 people died in an accident in Yichun, caused China Eastern Airlines shares to fall.

At 10.30 am on Tuesday, the company’s shares had shed 5.98 percent at the Shanghai Stock Exchange and 4.36 percent at the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Hours after the incident, China Eastern ordered all 737-800 aircraft in its fleet to be grounded until more information was available, according to local media reports.

Shortly after the crash, Chinese President Xi Jinping ordered an investigation to determine the causes of the accident and other possible safety hazards in the civil aviation sector.

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