Passenger plane crashes in southern China

A passenger plane with 132 people on board has crashed in southern China in what threatens to be the country’s worst air disaster in years.

China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed in a mountain range in Guangxi an hour after takeoff, according to several state media reports. The flight flew from Kunming to Guangzhou.

Information on the victims or the cause of the crash was initially not available.

Data from Flightradar24 showed the six-year-old plane was flying at an altitude of 29,100 feet before rapidly losing speed and altitude.

The flight carried 123 passengers and nine crew members, according to the Chinese Civil Aviation Administration. The aviation authority said it had activated its emergency response and was sending a team to the crash site.

The fire department in Wuzhou, where the plane crashed, said the plane crashed in a remote mountainous area and 450 firefighters were on their way to the scene, according to state media.

Videos on social media showed smoke billowing from a mountain in the area. The images could not be verified by the Financial Times.

Flight tracking websites show that the route was flown by a Boeing 737-800.

Boeing and China Eastern did not immediately respond to questions.

The crash could be one of China’s worst aviation disasters in two decades, after a series of accidents in the 1990s that officials blamed rapid growth of the aviation industry without strict official supervision.

Over the past two decades, China has suffered fewer accidents after the country upgraded its fleet and introduced stricter government controls and regulatory inspections.

The Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed in China is different from the larger Max series that crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia over a six-month period, killing a total of 346 people.

The global fleet of 737 Max aircraft has been grounded for two years following incidents involving an Indonesian airline in October 2018 and an Ethiopian airline in March 2019. Boeing last year reached a $2.5 billion settlement to compensate the families of those killed in the accidents.

China Eastern shares were down 6.5 percent in late Hong Kong trading on the day. Boeing shares fell 6.6 percent in premarket trading in New York.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding and Oliver Ralph Passenger plane crashes in southern China

Adam Bradshaw

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