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Plane Carrying 132 Crashes In China, Xi Orders Probe

Beijing   –    A China Eastern passenger jet carrying 132 people crashed into a mountain in southern China on Monday causing a large fire, shortly after losing contact with air traffic control and dropping thousands of metres in under three minutes. The Boeing 737-800 light from the city of Kunming to the southern hub of Guangzhou “lost airborne contact over Wuzhou” in the Guangxi region on Monday afternoon, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). The jet was carrying 123 passengers and nine crew members, according to aviation authorities. The disaster prompted an unusually swift public reaction from President Xi Jinping, who said he was “shocked” and ordered an immediate investigation into its cause. China Eastern confirmed there had been deaths in the crash, without providing the number of those killed or giving details on whether there were any survivors. “The company expresses its deep condolences for the passengers and crew members who died in the plane crash,” the airline said in a statement. The cause of the crash is “still under investigation”, it added. Hundreds of firefighters were dispatched to the scene in Teng county near the city of Wuzhou, state media reported, as nearby villagers rushed to help the rescue effort. “Everyone went to the mountains,” Tang Min, who runs a small restaurant a few kilometres from the crash site, told AFP by telephone. Fears for the fate of the jet spread on Monday afternoon as local media reported that China Eastern flight MU5735 had not arrived as planned in Guangzhou after taking off from Kunming shortly after 1:00 pm (0500 GMT). Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed no data for the flight after 2:22 pm.