GUANGZHOU, GUANGDONG, CHINA – 2019/10/03: Logo of China Eastern Airlines seen on a Boeing 737-800 in Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.
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China’s aviation authority said Monday that a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane had crashed with 132 people on board, including 123 passengers and nine crew members.
Contact was lost with the flight over Wuzhou, in the Guangxi region, the authority said. It was scheduled to fly from Kunming to Guangzhou in the southeast of the country.
The flight — believed to be the MU5735 — left Kunming at 1: 11 p.m. local time (1: 11 a.m. ET) and was due to arrive at its destination in under two hours, according to information on FlightRadar24. The flight-tracking website shows that the Boeing 737-89P plane began to descend sharply after 2: 20 p.m. local time.
The number of casualties is currently unknown.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it had “activated the emergency mechanism and dispatched a working group to the scene,” according to a translation. Chinese state media said the crash had caused a mountain fire.
China Eastern Airlines confirmed the crash and the number of people on board via a statement on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. The airline said it is sending workers to the site of the crash and has opened a hotline for family members.
It also changed the colors of its website to black and white — something airlines do following a crash out of respect for any casualties.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was “shocked” to learn of the incident, according to state media CCTV. He instructed China Eastern to organize search and rescue efforts and begin an investigation into the cause of the crash.
The last serious passenger plane crash in China was in 2010, when 42 people died on a Henan Airlines Embraer E-190 flight.
Boeing shares were down over 8% in premarket trade Monday. The company was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.
The crash comes as Boeing has been trying to recover its reputation after a number of major incidents in recent years.
The company’s 737 Max passenger aircraft was grounded worldwide between March 2019 and December 2020 — and longer in some places — after manufacturing faults were found to have caused two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. Indonesia’s Lion Air Flight 610 crashed on Oct. 29, 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 came down on March 10, 2019, killing a combined 346 people.
The Boeing 737 that crashed Monday in China was not a Max model, according to the company. China regulators approved changes to allow the Max to resume flying in December, but the planes have not yet returned to service.
Boeing reported its third annual loss in a row in January, disclosing $5.5 billion in costs tied to manufacturing flaws, which have hindered deliveries of the company’s 787 Dreamliner program.