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An Ethiopian Airlines jet has crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing all on board.

The airline said 149 passengers and eight crew members were on flight ET302 from the Ethiopian capital to Nairobi in Kenya.

It said 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, eight Americans and seven British nationals were among the passengers.

The crash happened at 08:44 local time, six minutes after the months-old Boeing 737 Max-8 took off.

Another plane of the same model was involved in a crash less than five months ago, when a Lion Air flight crashed into the sea near Indonesia with nearly 190 people on board.

Do we know how it happened?

The cause of the disaster is not yet clear. However, the pilot had reported difficulties and had asked to return to Addis Ababa, the airline said.

“At this stage, we cannot rule out anything,” Ethiopian Airlines CEO Tewolde Gebremariam told reporters at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa.

“We cannot also attribute the cause to anything because we will have to comply with the international regulation to wait for the investigation.”

The Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft that crashed on SundayImage copyrightJONATHAN DRUION
Image captionThe Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft that crashed on Sunday

Visibility was said to be good but air traffic monitor Flightradar24 reported that the plane’s “vertical speed was unstable after take-off”.

An eyewitness at the scene told the BBC there was an intense fire as the aircraft hit the ground.

“The blast and the fire were so strong that we couldn’t get near it,” he said. “Everything is burnt down.”

First word of the crash came when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed expressed his “deepest condolences” on Twitter.

Map showing the flight path

Recovery operations were under way near the crash site around the town of Bishoftu, which is 60km (37 miles) south-east of the capital.

The plane was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines on 15 November last year. It underwent a “rigorous first check maintenance” on 4 February, the airline tweeted.

Who are the victims?

Mr Gebremariam told the news conference that passengers from more than 30 countries were on board the flight.

He said they included 32 Kenyans, 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians, eight Italians, eight Chinese, eight Americans, seven Britons, seven French citizens, six Egyptians, five Germans, four Indians and four people from Slovakia.

Media captionSon of Ethiopian Airlines passenger: “I’m still in shock”

Slovak MP Anton Hrnko later confirmed via Facebook that his wife and two children were on the plane.

Three Austrians, three Swedes, three Russians, two Moroccans, two Spaniards, two Poles and two Israelis were also on the flight.

Ethiopian Airlines shared this image and said it showed CEO Tewolde Gebremariam at the crash siteImage copyrightETHIOPIAN AIRLINES
Image captionEthiopian Airlines shared this image of CEO Tewolde Gebremariam at the crash site

There was also one passenger each from Ireland, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Belgium, Indonesia, Somalia, Norway, Serbia, Togo, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and Yemen.

One person held a UN passport, the airline said. It believed some passengers could have been heading to a session of the UN Environment Assembly which begins in Nairobi on Monday.

A UN source also told Agence France-Presse that “at least a dozen of the victims were affiliated with the UN”, and that this may include freelance translators.

World Food Programme executive director David Beasley said seven members of agency staff had died in the crash.

 

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