New Zimbabwe.com

‘All 157 aboard Ethiopian airliner dead’. No Zimbabwean yet

BBC/Staff Reporter- ALL 149 passengers and eight crew members were on flight ET302 from the Ethiopian capital to Nairobi in Kenya are dead.

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive officer Tewolde Gebremariam told a press conference, Sunday, that passengers from more than 30 countries were on board the flight.

He said they included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven Britons, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Dutch citizens, four Indians and four people from Slovakia.

Three Austrians, three Swedes, three Russians, two Moroccans, two Spaniards, two Poles and two Israelis were also on the flight.

There was also one passenger each from Belgium, Indonesia, Somalia, Norway, Serbia, Togo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen.

There was no indication of any Zimbabwean having been on the doomed flight as of Sunday afternoon.

The crash happened at 08.44 local time, six minutes after the months-old Boeing 737 Max-8 took off.

It is not yet clear what caused the accident.

However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, the airline said.

An eyewitness at the scene told the BBC there was an intense fire as the aircraft hit the ground.

“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down. There are four helicopters at the scene now.”

In an earlier statement, the airline said that search and rescue operations were under way near the crash site around the town of Bishoftu, which is 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital.

“Ethiopian Airlines staff will be sent to the accident scene and will do everything possible to assist the emergency services,” the statement added.

The 737 Max-8 aircraft is relatively new to the skies, having been launched in 2016. It was added to the Ethiopian Airlines fleet in July last year.

Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” by the crash and offered to send a team to provide technical assistance.

Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash five months ago, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.