An Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 passenger jet to Nairobi crashed early on Sunday with 149 passengers and eight crew members aboard, the airline said, and there were no survivors, according to the state broadcaster.
The flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8.38 am local time, before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later at 8.44 am.
“There are no survivors onboard the flight, which carried passengers from 33 countries,” said state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation, quoting an unidentified source at the airline.
The Kenyan Transport Minister said there were 18 Canadians on board. Canada’s government has yet to confirm that number.
Flight ET 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometres southeast of the capital Addis Ababa, the airline said, adding that the plane was a Boeing 737-800 MAX, registration number ET-AVJ.
That model number does not exist however and multiple aviation websites later identified the plane as a new 737 MAX 8, the same plane that crashed in Indonesia in October, killing 189.
The flight had unstable vertical speed after takeoff, said flight-tracking website Flightradar24 on its Twitter feed.
At Nairobi airport, many relatives of passengers were waiting at the gate, with no information from airport authorities.
“We’re just waiting for my mum. We’re just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She’s not picking up her phone,” said Wendy Otieno, clutching her phone and weeping.
Robert Mutanda, 46, was waiting for his brother-in-law coming from Canada.