People search through scattered remains of Ethiopian Airlines plane

Red cross team work amid debris at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines

Red cross team work amid debris at the crash site of Ethiopia Airlines

The incident killed all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travellers and United Nations staff headed to an global conference. It also was a serious blow to state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, which has expanded to become the continent's largest and best-managed carrier and turned Addis Ababa into the gateway to Africa.

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 MAX8.

China state TV said there were eight Chinese citizens on the flight.

People from 33 countries were on board, of which 32 were Kenyans and 17 Ethiopians.

"Some of them, as you know, they are very distressed", he said.

A regularly scheduled flight from Bole airport in Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya crashed at 8.44am local time (5.44am GMT), after taking off at 8.38am.

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China is an important market for the U.S. aircraft company, accounting for about one-fifth of worldwide deliveries of Boeing 737 MAX models.

"At this time search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible causalities", Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement.

On October 29, a Lion Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 crashed into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.

Ethiopia Airlines released a statement stating they had lost contact with the flight just six minutes after it took off.

Boeing said it was sending a technical team to help with the Ethiopian-led investigation. The plane's vertical speed (seen in the diagram, centre) varied between 2,624 feet per minute and minus 1,216, a pattern which flight experts said was highly unusual during one of the "most critical phases of flight".

"Its last major crash was in January 2010, when a flight from Beirut went down shortly after take-off", Reuters reports.

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