A Boeing 737-800NG operated by China Eastern Airlines with 132 people onboard, including nine crew members, has crashed in the south-west of China near the city of Wuzhou, in the Guangxi region.
The crash was initially reported by Chinese state television CCTV and has since been confirmed by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) in an online announcement.
"At present, it has been confirmed that this flight has crashed," the CAAC said. It has now activated its emergency response and "dispatched a working group to the scene."
— Aviation Safety Network (ASN) (@AviationSafety) March 21, 2022
The aircraft left Kunming city around 13:00 local time and was on its way to the southern hub of Guangzhou some 1,300 kilometres away when it lost airborne contact over Wuzhou city in the Guangxi region, the CAAC stated. Its crash started a wildfire on a nearby mountain, according to pictures and videos shared from the scene.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered all-out efforts for rescue operations, and hundreds of rescue workers have since been sent to the area where the plane went down. According to state-run TV news service CGTN, the first batch of rescuers has arrived at the crash site.
For the time being, there is no clarity on casualties, though provincial firefighting officials have said they have not seen signs of life among the debris. The airline has also put out an official confirmation of the crash. "Can confirm the plane has crashed," said China Eastern Airlines in a statement. Its website has since been coloured black and white in a gesture of mourning.
China Eastern Airlines has decided to ground all 106 of its remaining Boeing 737-800s pending investigations into the cause of the crash, according to Sina News Agency. Flights out of Beijing on Monday evening are also expected to be halted.
This article was updated at 13:54 as more details emerged.