Investigators investigating the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 by Ethiopian Airlines, which crashed into a field in a flaming ball, were supposed to raze the debris on Monday for clues to the cause of the disaster as operators set up their fleets around the world.
The brand new aircraft, the MAX 8, one of Boeing's flagship aircraft, landed on Sunday just six minutes after his flight to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.
The airline said Monday it had taken its stable of 737 Max from service hours after China's aviation security regulator had ordered domestic airlines to do the same.
Eight crew and 149 passengers from 35 countries were killed when the flight ET 302 60 km southeast of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa in a field and left a huge crater.
"The plane was already in flames when it fell to the ground and the crash caused a big explosion," said the witness Tegegn Dechasa at the site, which contained passengers, human remains and aircraft parts.
"The plane was on fire shortly before the crash on its back, making the aircraft unpredictable before the crash."
Farmer Sisay Gemechu said, "The plane seemed to land in a nearby open field, but crashed before it got there."
Ethiopian Airlines said the pilot had been allowed to reverse after experiencing difficulties with the airport authorities.
Among the dead were tourists, business travelers and UN staff, including some working for the World Food Program, the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration.
According to the IOM, there were early indications that 19 employees of UN affiliates were killed by the crash.
Many were ready for an annual assembly of the United Nations Environment Program to be opened in Nairobi on Monday with 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest airline, said the search for the crash site was suspended overnight, but was resumed in daylight.
"A committee consisting of Ethiopian Airlines, the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority and the Ethiopian Transport Authority has been established to conduct the investigation."
"As soon as the … deceased are identified, their bodies are handed over to their families and relatives."
National day of mourning
The US National Transportation Safety Board said it would send investigators to support it, and Canada, which had lost 18 citizens, said consular officials were "taken to Addis Ababa immediately" to investigate the facts.
The Ethiopian Parliament has declared on Monday a national day of mourning under a worldwide condolence.
"The news on the morning of the plane crash in Ethiopia, which calls for the lives of everyone on board, are deeply saddened," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote.
The Slovakian MP Anton Hrnko was one of the survivors.
"With deep sadness I announce that my dear Mrs. Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala died this morning in the air disaster in Addis Ababa", he wrote on Facebook.
The Boeing 737-800MAX was new and delivered on 15 November to the state-owned Ethiopian Airways.
The plane is the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air-Jet, which crashed 13 minutes into Jakarta's launch in October, killing all 189 people on board.
Ethiopian Airlines said it had departed Bole International Airport on Sunday at 8:38 am (05:38 GMT) and lost touch six minutes later.
According to the airline, Kenya had the largest number of casualties at 32, followed by Canada at 18, Ethiopia at nine, Italy, China and the US at eight each.
Full of shock and immense sadness
There were seven people in the UK and France, six in Egypt and five in Germany – although the collapse was not final.
The French government later said that there were eight French victims.
The head of the African Union, Moussa Faki Mahamat, spoke of "total shock and great sadness," while Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the East African IGAD bloc, said the region and the world mourn.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Theresa May both described as "devastating".
Sympathy messages also came from the governments of Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Germany, France and the USA.
Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde GebreMariam said the plane had flown in from Johannesburg on Sunday, spent three hours in Addis and sent "without comments," meaning no problems were reported.
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