Seven Britons are among the 157 people killed when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed on its way to Kenya, Kenya’s transport secretary James Macharia has said.
The Boeing 737-8 MAX crashed shortly after take-off from Ethiopia’s capital on Sunday morning, killing all 157 people thought to be on board, the airline and state broadcaster said.
The plane crashed six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on its way to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
Passengers included 33 nationalities, including 32 Kenyans and 17 Ethiopians. Chinese state TV said eight Chinese citizens were on board.
The plane took off at 8:38am (0638 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 37 miles southeast of Addis Ababa. The plane came down near the village of Tulu Fara.
An AFP reporter said there was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely.
Police and troops were on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia’s civil aviation agency
The plane showed unstable vertical speed after takeoff, air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 said in a Twitter post. Visibility appeared to be clear.
The airline said it was setting up a passenger information centre and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on board the flight.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted his “deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones”.
“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
In an earlier statement, the airline said: “We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in an accident today. It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight.”
The crash came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.
In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends, and colleagues of passengers were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“I am still hoping that all is fine, because I have been waiting for my sister since morning and we have not been told anything,” Peter Kimani told AFP in the arrivals lounge over an hour after the plane was scheduled to land at 10:25am local time. His sister is a nurse who he said had gone to Congo. “She travels a lot on missions.”
“We are still expecting our loved one from Addis… we have just received news that there is a plane that has crashed. We can only hope that she is not on that flight.”