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No survivors found after China Eastern plane crash, investigations hampered by severe damage to aircraft: Aviation authority

No survivors found after China Eastern plane crash, investigations hampered by severe damage to aircraft: Aviation authority

Plane debris is seen at the site where a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane flying from Kunming to Guangzhou crashed, in Wuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, China on Mar 21, 2022. (Photo: cnsphoto via Reuters)

WUZHOU: Chinese aviation authorities said Tuesday (Mar 22) they had found no survivors so far from a crashed China Eastern jet nearly 36 hours after it plunged into a mountainside with 132 people on board. 

"Up to now, search and rescue work has not found any survivors," Zhu Tao, director of aviation safety at the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told reporters. He added that the focus is now on "the search for flight recorders." 

"The jet was seriously damaged during the crash, and investigations will face a very high level of difficulty," Zhu said at the first government briefing on the disaster.

"Given the information currently available, we still do not have a clear assessment of the cause for the crash," he said, adding that the aircraft did not respond to repeated calls from air controllers during its rapid descent.

RESCUERS AT CRASH SITE

Rescuers combed heavily forested mountain slopes in southern China on Tuesday, using shovels and torches in their hunt for victims and flight recorders.

About 600 soldiers, firefighters and police marched to the crash site, a patch of about 1 sq km in a location hemmed in by mountains on three sides, after excavators cleared a path, state television said.

It added that the search for the recorders, or "black boxes", of the Boeing 737-800 involved in China's first crash of a commercial jetliner since 2010, would be carried out in grid-by-grid fashion, probably through the night.

Police set up a checkpoint at Lu village, on the approach to the site, and barred journalists from entering. Several people gathered for a small Buddhist ceremony nearby to pray for the victims.

Highlighting the top-level concern, Vice Premier Liu He went to Guangxi on Monday night to oversee search and rescue operations. 

"That B737-800 jet met airworthiness standards before taking off and technical conditions were stable," Sun Shiying, a China Eastern official, said at the briefing.

"The crew members were in good health, and their flying experience was in line with regulatory requirements," he said.

Flight MU5735 was headed on Monday for the port city of Guangzhou from Kunming, capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, when it plunged from cruising altitude to crash in the mountains of Guangxi less than an hour before landing time.

The foreign ministry said Tuesday they believed all passengers on board were Chinese nationals.

The jet appeared to dive to the ground at an angle of about 35 degrees from the vertical in video images from a vehicle's dashboard camera, according to Chinese media. Reuters could not immediately verify the footage.

State television has shown images of plane debris strewn among trees charred by fire. Burnt remains of identity cards and wallets were also seen.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on Monday appointed an investigator, as the Boeing aircraft was produced in the United States, but it was unclear if the investigator would travel to China.

On Monday, China Eastern and two subsidiaries grounded its fleet of 737-800 planes. The group has 225 of the aircraft, data from British aviation consultancy IBA shows.

As of Tuesday, other Chinese airlines had yet to cancel any flights that use 737-800 aircraft, according to data from Chinese aviation data provider Flight Master.

Source: Agencies/vc

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