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Wallets, identity documents, but no survivors were found in the China disaster

KUNMING – Mud-stained wallets. Bank cards. Official ID cards. Touching reminders of 132 lives believed to have been lost were ordered by rescue workers searching a remote Chinese mountain slope on Tuesday for the wreckage of a China Eastern flight that fell inexplicably from the sky the day before and exploded in a huge orb of fire.

No survivors were found among the 123 passengers and nine crew members. Videos published by Chinese state media show small pieces of the Boeing 737-800 scattered in a wide wooded area, some in green fields, others in burnt spots with raw soil, discovered after burning fires in trees. Next to each piece of debris there is a number, the larger ones are marked with a police tape.

As family members gathered at the airports for destination and departure, what caused the plane to fall from the sky shortly before it began its descent to the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou remains a mystery. Searching for black boxes that store flight data and cocktails will be difficult, the official Xinhua news agency said, and will include drones and manual search.

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The crash left a deep pit on the mountain slope, Xinhua said, citing rescuers. Chen Weihao, who saw the plane crash while working on a farm, told the news agency that it hit a gap in the mountain where no one lives.

“The plane looked like the whole thing when it dived. It crashed in seconds, “Chen said.

Flight 5735 of China Eastern crashed outside the city of Wuzhou in the Guangxi area during a flight from Kunming, the capital of the southwestern province of Yunnan, to Guangzhou, an industrial center off Hong Kong on China’s southeast coast. He lit a fire large enough to be seen in NASA satellite imagery before firefighters could put it out.

There were no foreigners on board the lost flight, the foreign ministry said, citing a preliminary inspection.

Dinglong Culture, a Guangzhou-based mining and television and film company, said in a statement to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that its chief financial officer, Fang Fang, was a passenger. Zhongxinghua, an accounting firm used by Dinglong, said two of its employees were also on the flight.

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The crash site is surrounded on three sides by mountains and is accessible only on foot and by motorcycle on a steep dirt road in the semi-tropical region of Guangxi, known for some of China’s most spectacular landscapes.

It rained on Tuesday afternoon as excavators dug a path to facilitate access, state television CCTV reported. The steepness of the slope made it difficult to position heavy equipment.

An operational base with ambulances, ambulances and an emergency power truck parked in the narrow space was built near the crash site. Soldiers and rescue workers combed the charred site of the crash and the surrounding dense vegetation.

Police restricted access, checking every vehicle entering Molang, a village near the crash site. Five people with swollen eyes left the village, got in the car and left. Eyewitnesses said they were relatives of the passengers.

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Family members gathered at Kunming and Guangzhou airports. People dressed in pink blankets and relaxed in massage chairs could be seen in the rest area of ​​the passengers in the basement of Kunming. Workers picked up mattresses and brought food in packages. A security guard blocked the access of a journalist from the AP, saying that “interviews are not accepted”.

In Guangzhou, relatives were escorted to a reception center where staff were dressed in full protective gear to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

At least five hotels with more than 700 rooms have been confiscated in Teng County in Wuzhou for family members, Chinese media reported.

Protective suit workers set up a check-in counter and tested for COVID-19 at the entrance to a hotel outside Molang. A sign read: “The hotel was requisitioned for emergency use on March 21 in a plane crash.” At another hotel, a group of women, some of whom wore Red Cross vests, checked in at an outside hotel counter.

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The country’s first fatal plane crash in more than a decade has dominated China’s news and social media. World leaders, including Boris Johnson of Britain, Narendra Modi of India and Justin Trudeau of Canada, posted condolences on Twitter.

Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun said the company was deeply saddened by the news and offered full support to its technical experts to help with the investigation.

“The thoughts of all of us at Boeing are with the passengers and crew … as well as their families and loved ones,” he wrote in a statement to Boeing employees.

The plane was about an hour after its flight, at an altitude of 29,000 feet (8,840 meters), when it entered a steep, fast dive around 2:20 p.m., according to FlightRadar24.com. The plane crashed to 7,400 feet before briefly regaining an altitude of about 1,200 feet, then dived again. The plane stopped transmitting data 96 seconds after it began diving.

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The plane was delivered to the airline in June 2015 and flew for more than six years.

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, where the flight is directed, is one of the main aviation centers in China. This is the main base of China Southern Airlines. As the pandemic overcame air travel, it traveled through Beijing and Atlanta to claim the title of the world’s busiest airport in 2020 – the last year for which annual data are available – serving more than 43 million passengers.

Guangzhou is the capital of Guangdong Province, where there are export-oriented factories producing smartphones, toys, furniture and other goods. Its Auto City district has joint ventures run by Toyota, Nissan and others. Kunming, the city of departure 1,100 kilometers (680 miles) west, is the capital of Yunnan Province, an agricultural, mining and tourist center bordering Southeast Asia.

China Eastern, headquartered in Shanghai, has stopped all 737-800, the Chinese Ministry of Transport said. Aviation experts said it was unusual to ground an entire fleet of aircraft unless there was evidence of a problem with the model.

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The airline is one of China’s three largest carriers with more than 600 aircraft, including 109 Boeing 737-800s. Grounding could further disrupt domestic air travel, which is already restricted due to China’s largest COVID-19 outbreak since its initial peak in early 2020.

The Boeing 737-800 has been flying since 1998 and has excellent safety performance, said Hassan Shahidi, president of the Flight Safety Foundation. This is an earlier model than the 737 Max, which was discontinued worldwide for nearly two years after fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019.

Before Monday, the last fatal crash of a Chinese plane occurred in August 2010, when an Embraer ERJ 190-100 operated by Henan Airlines hit the ground near the runway in the northeastern city of Yichun and caught fire. It transported 96 people, 44 of whom died. Investigators blamed the pilot’s mistake.

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Kang reported from Kunming, China. Associated Press researcher Yu Bing and news assistant Caroline Chen in Beijing, researcher Xi Chen in Shanghai, video producer Olivia Zhang from Wuzhou, China, writer Adam Shrek in Bangkok and airline writer David Koenig in Dallas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Wallets, identity documents, but no survivors were found in the China disaster

Source link Wallets, identity documents, but no survivors were found in the China disaster

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