China plane crash: Search for ‘Grim’ as rescue teams comb hillside

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Rescue teams in China are exploring a heavily forested slope in southern China where China Eastern Airlines crashed and exploded in flames, as state media reported no victims were found.

About 132 people, including nine crew, were on flight MU5735 when it crashed in the mountains of southern Guangxi on a flight from Kunming to Guangzhou.

Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 shows the plane plummeted from 29,100 feet (8,870 meters) to 7,850 feet (2,393 meters) in just over a minute.

After rising briefly, he then fell to a height of 3,225 feet (982 meters), the tracker said.

Chinese media carried brief highway video footage from the vehicle’s dashboard showing the jet diving into the ground behind trees at an angle of about 35 degrees from the vertical. The footage could not immediately be verified.

“The plane fell vertically from the sky,” the Beijing Youth Daily quoted a resident as saying.

The plane did not emit smoke during the crash.

‘Complex emotions’
State media described the situation as looking “gloomy” with hundreds of firefighters and paramilitary troops, some with dogs, deployed to the scene. Local villagers also rushed to help after seeing the blaze.

Describing the difficult terrain, state media said the crash site was surrounded by mountains on three sides, with access provided by a small path. Rain is forecast for the region this week.

The last crash of a commercial plane in mainland China was in 2010, when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed as it approached Yichun airport in

Accidents usually involve multiple factors, and experts said it was too early to draw conclusions about the possible cause of Monday afternoon’s crash.

Hassan Shahidi, president and CEO of the Flight Safety Foundation, said accidents at cruising altitude were “very rare” either in China or elsewhere.

“Investigators will look into all aspects of this flight, including mechanical, or structural problems,” Hassan told Al Jazeera by email. Boeing is expected to be part of the process to provide the necessary expertise. Investigators want to find the flight data recorder and voice recorder to find out what really happened.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for a full investigation into the crash.

China Eastern on Monday grounded its fleet of 737-800 aircraft, state media reported. It has 109 aircraft, according to FlightRadar24.