Ethiopia and China have grounded fleets of Boeing 737 MAX 8 after the crash of a new passenger jet that killed all 157 people on board an Ethiopian Airlines plane on Sunday.
Ethiopia’s parliament declared Monday a day of mourning over the crash, which ploughed into a field some 60 kilometres (40 miles) east of Addis Ababa, just six minutes after taking off from the capital on a flight to Nairobi.
One witness told AFP the plane was on fire before crashing, and swerving erratically.
As inhabitants of the remote, rural part of Ethiopia looked on from behind a security cordon, inspectors early Monday searched the site for plane debris, passenger belongings and human remains.
The single-aisle Boeing left a deep, black crater at the impact site, which was being dug up with a mechanical excavator.
Ethiopian Airlines, Africa’s largest carrier, said Monday it was grounding its remaining fleet of six 737 MAX 8 Boeings “until further notice”.
China, too, ordered domestic airlines to suspend commercial operation of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. The country had eight nationals among the 157 people — 149 passengers and eight crew — aboard the ill-fated flight ET 302.
Boeing has described the MAX series as its fastest-selling airplane ever, with more than 4,500 orders placed by July 2018 from 99 customers worldwide.
The plane that crashed Sunday was new, delivered to Ethiopia on November 15, the carrier said.
It is the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people from 35 countries on board.
At least 22 UN staff were on the flight, many headed for an annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme which opened under a dark cloud in Nairobi Monday.
Delegates arrived with the UN flag flying at half-mast, hugging and comforting one another as they wondered who among the staff may have been on the plane.
Slovak MP Anton Hrnko was among the bereaved.
“It is with deep sorrow that I announce that my dear wife, Blanka, son Martin and daughter Michala, died in the air disaster in Addis Ababa this morning,” he wrote on Facebook.