A passenger plane carrying 132 people has crashed in southern China in what could be the country’s worst air disaster in recent years.

China Eastern Airlines flight MU5735 crashed into a mountain range in Guangxi an hour after takeoff, according to state media reports. The plane was en route from Kunming to the city of Guangzhou.

No information about casualties or the cause of the crash was immediately available.

Data from tracker Flightradar24 showed the six-year-old plane traveled at 29,100 feet before rapidly losing speed and altitude.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the flight was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members. The aviation regulator said it had activated its emergency measures and sent a team to the crash site.

Firefighters in Wuzhou, where the plane crashed, said the plane crashed in a remote mountain area and 450 firefighters were on their way to the accident site, state media said.

Videos posted on social media show smoke coming from a nearby mountain. The images could not be verified by the Financial Times.

On Monday, President Xi Jinping said a team of “lead comrades” had been sent to conduct the rescue operation and investigate the cause of the crash. He instructed them to investigate any links to previous accidents.

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

Boeing said it “was aware of initial media reports and was in the process of gathering more information.” China Eastern did not immediately respond to questions.

The crash could be one of China’s worst aviation disasters in two decades, following a succession of accidents in the 1990s that officials blamed on the rapid growth of the airline industry without strict regulatory oversight.

Over the past two decades, China has seen fewer accidents after it upgraded its fleet and introduced stricter government controls and regulatory oversight.

The Boeing 737-800 that crashed Monday differs from the larger Max series that crashed in Indonesia and Ethiopia within six months, killing a total of 346 people.

The global fleet of 737 Max aircraft was grounded for two years after the incidents involving an Indonesian airline in October 2018 and an Ethiopian airline in March 2019. Boeing reached a $2.5 billion settlement last year to pay the families of the victims. of the accidents.

China was the last major market where the Boeing 737 Max was still awaiting approval to resume flying. The US had flights restarted in December 2020, followed by EU regulators in January 2021.

China is a vital growth market for both Boeing and its European rival Airbus.

Shares in China Eastern were down 6.5 percent in late trading in Hong Kong on the day. Shares of Boeing fell 6.6 percent in pre-market trading in New York.

Additional reporting by Maiqi Ding and Oliver Ralph

This post Passenger plane crashes in southern China

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