An Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane bound for Kenya has crashed with 149 passengers and eight crew members on board.
An Ethiopian Airlines spokesman confirmed that the Boeing 737 plane had crashed on a routine flight from Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa to Nairobi on Sunday.
The plane took off at 8:38am (0638 GMT) from Bole International Airport and “lost contact” six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 37 miles southeast of Addis Ababa.
The airline said “search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties.”
It said staff were being sent to the scene of the crash to “do everything possible to assist the emergency services.” It also plans to set up a passenger information centre and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on board the flight.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted his “deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones”.
In a statement, the airline said: “We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in an accident today. It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight but we are currently confirming the details of the passenger manifest for the flight.”
The Boeing 737-800MAX is the same type of plane as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed last October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.
The last major accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was a Boeing 737-800 that exploded after taking off from Lebanon in 2010, killing 83 passengers and seven crew.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
The crash comes as the country’s reformist prime minister has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state-centered economy.