bdmetronews Desk ॥ A Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines Boeing crashed minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa Sunday, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists, business travellers and UN staff.
Ethiopia declared a national day of mourning for Monday amid a global stream of condolences for loved ones, many of whom gathered in tears at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
“The House of People’s Representatives have declared March 11, 2019, a national day of mourning for citizens of all countries that have passed in this tragic accident,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said on Twitter.
Identities of the victims from 35 countries started to emerge as foreign governments and the United Nations reacted with shock.
“Deeply saddened by the news this morning of the plane crash in Ethiopia, claiming the lives of all on board,” tweeted UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Among the dead were United Nations staff, including some who worked for the World Food Programme, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration.
The IOM said in a statement early indications were that 19 staff members of UN-affiliated organisations perished in the crash.
Many were headed for an annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme, which opens in Nairobi Monday with some 4,700 heads of state, ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and civil society representatives.
– Wife, son, daughter dead –
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.
Flight ET 302 ploughed into a field 60 kilometres (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa on what the airline’s CEO Tewolde GebreMariam labelled a “very sad and tragic day”.
An eyewitness told AFP the plane came down in flames.
“The plane was already on fire when it crashed to the ground. The crash caused a big explosion,” Tegegn Dechasa recounted at the site, littered with passenger belongings, human remains, and airplane parts around a massive crater at the point of impact.
“The plane was in flames in its rear side shortly before the crash. The plane was swerving erratically before the crash.”
Local farmer Sisay Gemechu said he heard a loud noise as he was on his way to fetch water.
“The plane seemed to be aiming to land at a nearby level open field, but crashed before reaching there,” he said.
The Boeing 737-800MAX was brand new, delivered to state-owned Ethiopian Airways on November 15, said the carrier, Africa’s largest.
The plane is the same type as the Indonesian Lion Air jet that crashed in October, 13 minutes after takeoff from Jakarta, killing all 189 people on board.