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Workers search debris at the site of an Ethiopian airlines crash Workers search debris at the site of an Ethiopian airlines crash  (AFP or licensors)

Ethiopia plane crash kills 157

157 people die on Sunday after an airborne plane heading to Kenya from Ethiopia crashed, shortly after taking off.

By Francesca Merlo

The crash site is said to be the size of a football pitch, and a huge hole lies at the point of impact where Nairobi bound Ethiopia Airlines flight ET301 crashed, killing all 157 people on board.

The Boeing 737 Max 8 had only taken off from Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Airport 6 minutes before the fatal crash took place. The plane went down at 8:44am local time, near the town of Bishoftu, some 50km from Ethiopia’s capital.

Though the cause of the disaster remains unclear, the airline has said that the pilot had a "commendable performance" with more than 8,000 hours in the air and had reported difficulties, requesting to return to Addis Ababa, before losing contact with the control tower.

An eye witness said that the plane "crashed with a large boom.” And that “When it crashed luggage and clothes came burning down”.

As a result of the tragedy, Ethiopia and China have both grounded all of their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, while further investigations take place.

The crash bears striking similarities to an accident involving another Max 8 in October in Indonesia, which crashed 12 minutes into the flight killing all 189 passengers on board - though safety experts caution against drawing parallels too quickly.

Victims came from 35 different countries. According to a UN official, at least 19 of them were affiliated with the United Nations. Some were reportedly heading to a session of the UN Environment Assembly, which is going ahead as planned in Nairobi on Monday.

Kenya’s Secretary of Transport James Macharia and Ethiopian Airlines' Kenya country manager, Yilma Goshu, held a press conference at the Jomo Kenyatta International airport in Nairobi. There they said that the focus now would be on conducting the "investigation in line with international standards", and on "comforting and counselling relatives, friends and family" of passengers on board the flight.

Goshu said that relatives of the victims who wished to travel to Addis Ababa would be assisted, and the government would provide accommodation and updates to the investigation.

On Twitter worldwide leaders are expressing their condolences for the tragedy. Amongst others, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed offered his "deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones,", while Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta wrote that he is “saddened” by the crash, and praying for all families and associates of those on board.  

11 March 2019, 12:40