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Africa’s fastest growing airline crashes, all 157 people on board feared dead

NAIROBI, Kenya–– Africa’s fastest growing airline, Ethiopian airlines, experienced the most horrible incident in its history with all 157 people aboard confirmed dead.

Sources familiar with the African carrier confirmed that prior to the latest deadly incident, another Ethiopian airline flight had also encountered similar catastrophe in 2010, when a jet carrying 90 people plunged into the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Lebanon, leaving all the passengers aboard dead.

The unfortunate victims in the latest crashed flight included 32 people from Kenya, 18 from Canada, nine from Ethiopia, eight each from China, Italy and the United States, seven each from Britain and France, six from Egypt, and five from the Netherlands, the airline authorities said.

Others on board also included four each from India and Slovakia, three each from Austria, Russia and Sweden, two each from Israel, Morocco, Poland and Spain, and one each from Belgium, Djibouti, Indonesia, Ireland, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Norway, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovenia, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Yemen.

The accident occurred on Sunday, with the Boeing 737-800 MAX after taking off a few minutes from Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on its way to Nairobi, Kenya. Sources say the airliner crashed around the town of Bishoftu, some 45 km from the capital Addis Ababa.

Authorities told Globe Afrique that the aircraft was obtained by the Ethiopian Airline Group last November, and has only been in service for four months, flying more than 1,200 hours until Sunday’s crash.

Tewolde Gebremariam, Ethiopian Airlines Group CEO, said, “today is a very sad and tragic day for all of us.”

“At this stage, we cannot determine the cause of the accident,” Gebremariam said.

“It just came this morning from Johannesburg and arrived in Addis Ababa with no remark and it was dispatched with no remark,” he added.

“It was a clean airplane. It is a brand-new airplane… there is no problem on technical side,” Gebremariam said. “The routine maintenance check didn’t reveal any problem.”

Kenyan government has formed two emergency centers to counsel those affected by the tragedy, as the East African country records highest number of causalities from the tragic incident.

Kenyan cabinet secretary for transport and infrastructure, James Macharia, said that the centers will offer privacy and information to relatives of crash victims as the government waits for the plane’s manifest from the Ethiopian carrier.

“The purpose of these centers is to provide the relatives, who we call meeters and greeters, with information as much as we have and, at the same time, to provide them with an environment of privacy because until we know what has happened there will be a lot of anxiety,” he told a news conference in Nairobi.

The executive secretary of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Mahboub Maalim, also said that “the whole IGAD region and the world are today mourning.”

“It is always a shocking and sad news to hear of such an accident. It’s even more deeply impactful when it occurs in a country within our region and a flight route all familiar to us,” the IGAD executive secretary said.

Meanwhile, several African leaders have begun sending massages of condolence to the government and people of Ethiopia. 

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana on Sunday led the African solidarity group with the first message of condolences to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed over the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

In a press release, the Ghanaian presidency said, “like all Ghanaians, the president has been deeply saddened by Sunday’s news of the tragic loss of 157 lives, who perished on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, Kenya.”

“Akufo-Addo, on behalf of the government and people of Ghana, extends his deep condolences and sympathies to the families of the deceased, and to Abiy Ahmed, the government and people of Ethiopia in these difficult times,” the statement said.

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Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere

Jacob Ujamaa Nyerere is a public affairs researcher and senior investigative correspondent.

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