A passenger plane with over 130 people on board crashed on Monday afternoon in a mountainous area of southern China, the Civil Aviation Administration of China confirmed, prompting rescue teams to rush to the steep, heavily wooded site in hope of finding survivors.
The Boeing 737 plane, operated by China Eastern Airlines, went down in the Guangxi region, and flames and smoke could be seen rising from a hillside, initial Chinese news reports said, according to pictures and videos shared from the scene.
“The situation with casualties remains unclear,” said an online report issued by Chinese state television.
Residents in the area told reporters that the plane appeared to have shattered into debris, dampening hopes of finding survivors.
Initial reports said the plane crashed in Teng County in Guangxi while flying from Kunming, a city in southwest China, to Guangzhou, a city in the country’s far south. The plane was carrying 132 people, including 123 passengers and 9 crew members, said The Paper, a news website in Shanghai. State media reports initially said 133 passengers were on board.
About 300 rescue workers were racing to reach the accident site by early evening, with another 150 scheduled to arrive later in the night, the local forest fire service told Chinese television news. The plane about seven years old, had been flying steadily on this flight until it abruptly lost altitude at around 2:20 p.m., flight data indicated.
The plane was not a Boeing 737 Max, a model which has not resumed flying in China after a ban prompted by deadly crashes in Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopia in 2019. But Chinese airline companies have begun making new orders for the Max after Chinese aviation authorities signaled late last year that the model could resume flying after introducing certain modifications and safety measures.
The crash could become one of China’s worst air disasters in many years, after a succession of deadly accidents in the 1990s. Over the past two decades, the country has established a relatively safe flying record, thanks to a young fleet of planes and stricter air controls.
Firefighters in Teng County were first alerted to a possible flight accident there in the afternoon, when villagers reported that they had come across debris from a plane, the China News Service reported.