Live Updates: Boeing 737-800 Crashes in Remote Mountain Valley in Southern China
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A Boeing 737-800 passenger plane operated by China Eastern Airlines carrying more than 130 people went down in a mountainous area of the Guangxi region.

A passenger plane with 132 people on board crashed on Monday afternoon in a mountainous area of southern China, the Civil Aviation Administration of China confirmed. Rescue teams rushed to the steep, heavily wooded site hoping to find survivors, but initial reports before night fell were that they had only encountered debris and fire.

The Boeing 737 plane, operated by China Eastern Airlines, went down in the Guangxi region, and flames and smoke could be seen rising from a hillside, initial Chinese news reports said, according to pictures and videos shared from the scene. The fire was put out later Monday.

“The situation with casualties remains unclear,” said an online report issued by Chinese state television.

Rescuers at the crash site have begun to search through the debris, but the nighttime search efforts are expected to be hampered by the rain and heavy winds in the forecast. In an interview on state-run TV, a fire department official in Guangxi noted the poor visibility in the area, which could slow the search.

Residents in the area told reporters that the plane appeared to have shattered into debris, dampening hopes of finding survivors. The company offered its condolences to the relatives of those on board in a news statement.

Initial reports said the plane, Flight 5735, crashed in Teng County in Guangxi while flying from Kunming, a city in southwest China, to Guangzhou, a city in the country’s far south. The plane was carrying 132 people, including 123 passengers and 9 crew members, according to the civil aviation administration. State media reports initially said 133 passengers were on board.

China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, quickly issued a statement calling for rescuers to do their utmost and “handle the aftermath in a proper manner.” The Chinese central government dispatched officials to the scene to deal with the disaster and investigation into its causes.

“Ensure the absolute safety of civil aviation operations,” Mr. Xi said in his instructions.

Xinhua, via Alamy

Boeing released a statement on Twitter in which the company said: “Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew of China Eastern Airlines Flight MU 5735. We are working with our airline customer and are ready to support them.”

The plane, about seven years old, had been flying steadily on this flight until it abruptly lost altitude at around 2:20 p.m., flight data indicated.

The plane was not a Boeing 737 Max, a model that has not resumed flying in China after a ban prompted by deadly crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019.

Chinese state media said the airline has confirmed that there were no foreign passengers aboard the plane.

Family members of the flight’s crew have begun to gather at a China Eastern Airlines office in Yunnan Province, according to Chinese state media. The southwestern city of Kunming, where the plane took off, is the capital of Yunnan. A team is being set up at that office to assist the families.

The crash could become one of China’s worst air disasters in many years, after a succession of deadly accidents in the 1990s. Over the past two decades, the country has established a relatively safe flying record, thanks to a young fleet of planes and stricter air controls.

Firefighters in Teng County were first alerted to a possible flight accident there in the afternoon, when villagers reported that they had come across debris from a plane, the China News Service reported.

John Liu, Liu Yi, Claire Fu , Amy Chang Chien and Nadav Gavrielov contributed reporting.

Correction: 

March 21, 2022

An earlier version of this article misstated the status of the orders of Boeing Max planes among Chinese airlines. Boeing has been looking to deliver Max planes ordered before the ban was imposed; the airlines have not announced new orders.

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