A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800NG has crashed in the mountains in southern China carrying 132 people on board, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) has confirmed.
The aircraft, registration B-1791, was performing flight MU5735 from Kunming in Yunnan province to Guangzhou in Guangdong Province on Monday with 123 passengers and nine crew onboard, when its altitude started to quickly drop.
Data from Flightradar24 suggests the six-year-old aircraft lost over 20,000 feet in altitude within under two minutes, falling from 29,000 feet to under 9,000. The aircraft began to climb again briefly once it hit 7,400 feet, however within seconds again continued to descend.
The twin-engine jet impacted the ground about 119 nautical miles west of its destination, in the mountainous region of Wuzhou, about one hour and 37 minutes after take-off.
Search and rescue operations are currently underway, however, local media sources have said that there are currently no signs of survivors. It is not yet known what caused the crash, and investigations are continuing.
The CAAC has said it has activated all relevant emergency protocols and sent a working group to the scene, while China Eastern Airlines has also said it sent officials to the crash site in line with emergency procedures.
Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts from near the crash site suggest that the plane fell almost vertically out of the sky before the crash, and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV published a photo that is said to be of MU5735’s steep descent.
The crashed aircraft caused a fire to erupt in Wuzhou’s mountainous regions, which local media stated was controlled within a few hours of the incident.
Loved ones of the passengers onboard MU5735 gathered late on Monday at the flight’s destination at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.
Reports suggest that China Eastern will arrange for relatives to travel to the crash site as early as Tuesday, should they wish to.
Local media has reported that the CAAC has also moved to ground China’s entire fleet of Boeing 738-800 aircraft while investigations into the cause of the crash continue.
A Boeing spokesperson said the company is aware of “initial media reports” of a crash and are “working to gather more information”.
Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration are also expected to be involved in the crash investigation.
More to come.