China, Ethiopia ground Boeing fleets after deadly crash

Ethiopia and China grounded fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8 after the crash of a new passenger jet that killed all 157 people on board as the search resumed Monday for bodies and clues into the disaster .
Ethiopia ’ s parliament declared Monday a day of mourning over the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines jet , which ploughed into a field some 60 kilometres ( 40 miles ) east of Addis Ababa on Sunday — just six minutes after taking off from the capital on a flight to Nairobi .

One witness told AFP the plane was on fire before crashing and swerving erratically .

As inhabitants of the remote , rural part of Ethiopia looked on from behind a security cordon , inspectors early Monday searched the site for plane debris, passenger belongings and human remains .

The single – aisle Boeing left a deep , black crater at the impact site , which was being dug up with a mechanical excavator .

Ethiopian Airlines , Africa ’ s largest carrier , said Monday it was grounding its remaining fleet of six 737 MAX 8 Boeings “ until further notice” .

China , too , ordered domestic airlines to suspend the commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8 . The country had eight nationals among the 157 people — 149 passengers and eight crew — aboard the ill – fated flight ET 302.

Boeing has described the MAX series as its fastest- selling airplane ever , with more than 4 , 500 orders placed by July 2018 from 99 customers worldwide .

State – owned Ethiopian Airlines had ordered 30 .

The plane that crashed Sunday was new, delivered to Ethiopia on November 15 , the carrier said .

It is the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October , 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta , killing all 189 people from 35 countries on board .

At least 22 UN staff were on the flight , many headed for an annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme which opened under a dark cloud in Nairobi Monday.

Delegates arrived with the UN flag flying at half – mast , hugging and comforting one another as they wondered who among the staff may have been on the plane .

– Plane on fire –

“ Let us reflect that our colleagues were willing to travel and to work far from their homes and loved ones to make the world a better place to live, ” UN Habitat head Maimunah Sharif told some of those gathered .

Among the dead were staff from the World Food Programme , the UN refugee agency , the International Organization for Migration , and Food and Agriculture Organization , the agencies said .

Nairobi hosts the global headquarters of UNEP and UN Habitat, and is the regional seat of several other UN agencies .

“ Deeply saddened by the news this morning of the plane crash in Ethiopia , claiming the lives of all on board , ” tweeted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres .

One witness , Tegegn Dechasa , told AFP at the site that “ the plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground . The crash caused a big explosion. ”

Another , farmer Sisay Gemechu, said , “ The plane seemed to be aiming to land at a nearby level open field , but crashed before reaching there . ”

Ethiopian Airlines said the pilot had been given clearance to turn around after flagging difficulties to airport authorities.

“ A committee comprising of Ethiopian Airlines , Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and Ethiopian Transport Authority has been set up to carry out the investigations, ” the airline said .

“ Once the deceased are identified, their bodies will be delivered to their families and loved ones . ”

Details of the passengers have started to emerge .

Among them was Cedric Asiavugwa, a Kenyan third – year student at Georgetown University Law School in Washington , who had been due to graduate in the spring and was visiting home , the university said .

Kenya had the highest death toll with 32 , according to the airline .

Canada followed with 18 victims , including Nigerian- born author Pius Adesanmi , who directed the Institute of African Studies at Carleton University .

– ‘ Devastating ’ –

The airline said Ethiopia had nine victims , then Italy , China , and the United States with eight each . Britain and France each had seven people on board , Egypt six , and Germany five — though the breakdown was not final.

France’ s government later said there were eight French victims .

Slovak MP Anton Hrnko was among the bereaved .

“ It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife , Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in Addis Ababa this morning , ” he wrote on Facebook.

The US National Transportation Safety Board said it would send investigators to assist , and Canada deployed consular officials to Addis Ababa .

African Union commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat spoke of “ utter shock and immense sadness ” , while Mahboub Maalim , executive secretary of the IGAD East African bloc , said the region and the world were in mourning.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Theresa May both described the news as “ devastating” .

Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the plane had flown in from Johannesburg earlier Sunday , spent three hours in Addis and was “ despatched with no remark ” , meaning no problems were flagged .

( AFP)

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