Plane Crashes in China's Worst Air Disaster in Over a Decade
Plane Crashes in China's Worst Air Disaster in Over a Decade. Photo: Reuters video screenshot

A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 tragically crashed earlier today (Monday 21 March) into mountains in the Guangxi region of southern China, with authorities reporting there are likely no survivors. The plane – which had been carrying 132 people on board – was seen plummeting vertically from the clouds, on video shared on social media.

Chinese state television showed firefighters rushing to the crash site. The Airline company confirmed the crash in a statement, and gave details of a hotline for relatives of those on board. There had been 123 passengers and nine crew on the flight. Eastern Airlines said it deeply mourned the loss of passengers and crew.

China’s President Xi Jinping issued a statement calling for “all-out efforts” to find any crash survivors, and ordered a full investigation. He also sent condolences to relatives of the deceased.

Relatives of the passengers of the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane that crashed in Wuzhou wait for news
Women walk at the airport before entering the area where relatives of the passengers of the China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane, which crashed in Wuzhou flying from Kunming to Guangzhou, wait for news, at Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, China March 22, 2022. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

International media reports say it was likely a “loss of control event” and that the terrifying nosedive lasted two minutes, carrying passengers at a speed of 350mph before crashing into the mountains. Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said the plane descended at 31,000 feet a minute.

Plane Crashes in China's Worst Air Disaster in Over a Decade
File photo of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing at the airport. Photo: Reuters video screenshot

The New York Times reports that the Boeing was a twin-engine, single aisle aircraft, which had been flying for over six years.

The plane lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, according to the airline. Reuters reports the aeroplane had been at cruising altitude before making the sudden descent, which was apparently caught on film by a vehicle’s dash-cam. A rescuer said the plane had disintegrated and burst into flames, which were extinguished by firefighters. The forest fire was visible from space, captured in NASA satellite images.

Rescue teams search for crashed Chinese Boeing jet
Rescue teams search for crashed Chinese Boeing jet. Reuters keyframe

The tragic flight was a domestic one en route from the southwestern city of Kunming to Guangzhou, which borders Hong Kong. The airline said there were no foreigners on the flight.

This was China’s first commercial airliner crash since 2010 when a jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed in low visibility, killing 44 of 96 people aboard. During this century there have been three other notable air disasters in China.

In 2004, a China Eastern plane crashed in North China, killing 55. In 2002, a China Northern Airlines plane plunged into the sea, killing all 112 people on board. And in 2000, a Wuhan Airlines plane was struck by lightning and exploded midair, causing at least 42 fatalities.

Update 23 March 2022: One of two flight recorders has been located, according to a Xinhua report.