China Eastern: Plane carrying 132 people crashes in Guangxi hills

A Chinese passenger plane with 132 people on board has crashed in a forested hillside in southern China.

The China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 was flying from Kunming to Guangzhou when it came down in Guangxi province and caught fire.

It is feared there are no survivors, but the number of casualties and reason for the crash is not yet known.

Chinese airlines generally have a good safety record: the last major accident took place 12 years ago.

Flight tracking data suggested the plane lost height rapidly from its cruising altitude before hitting the ground.

More than 600 emergency responders are said to be at the crash site. Firefighters reached the scene first and managed to extinguish a blaze in the hills caused by the crash.

Footage taken by local villagers and shared on Chinese social media – and by state broadcasters – showed fire and smoke from the crash, and plane debris on the ground.h

Air safety and aviation standards in China have improved vastly in recent decades following a series of accidents in the 1990s and crashes such as this are now very rare.

The country’s last major plane accident was in August 2010, when a flight from Harbin crashed in north-east Yichun during foggy weather, killing 42 people.

China Eastern has set up a hotline for people seeking information about those on board. It has greyed out its logo on its Weibo account and also changed its website to black and white in an apparent sign of mourning.

The state-owned carrier is one of China’s big three airlines, along with China Southern and Air China.

China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it had also dispatched its investigators to the scene.

Flight MU5735 left Kunming at 13:11 local time (05:11 GMT) and was scheduled to arrive in Guangzhou at 15:05.

File picture of a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane

Flight tracking sites report the plane was in the air for just over an hour and was nearing its destination when it went down in Wuzhou, a verdant, hilly area prone to mixed weather at this time of year as China enters its annual flood season.

The weather was cloudy but visibility was reported to have been good at the time of the crash.

The plane dropped thousands of metres in three minutes, flight tracker data showed.

According to FlightRadar24 data, the plane was cruising at 29,100 feet but two minutes and 15 seconds later it was recorded at 9,075 feet. The last sourced information on the flight showed it ended at 14:22 local time, at an altitude of 3,225 ft.

The Boeing 737-800 plane was seven years old, according to tracker websites. It’s the predecessor model to the Boeing 737 Max line, which were the planes involved in deadly crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019.

China banned that model after those crashes.

Boeing issued a statement on the crash of MU5735, saying: “We are aware of the initial media reports and are working to gather more information.”

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