Flight to Kenya crashes with 157 on board

An Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet has crashed on its way to Kenya with 157 people on board.

Ethiopian Airlines says it believes 149 passengers and eight crew members were on board Flight ET 302 that crashed six minutes after taking off from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on a flight to Nairobi.

A statement from the airline on Sunday morning said the Boeing 737-800 MAX, registration number ET-AVJ, crashed around Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 62km south of the capital, shortly after taking off at 8.38am local time, losing contact at 8.44am.

The airline statement said search and rescue operations were in progress.

“We have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties,” the statement said.

However, the Ethiopian prime minister’s office in a separate, earlier statement offered condolences to families.

There have been no immediate details on what caused the crash.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is “urgently” trying to find out if any Australians were on board.

“The Australian Embassy in Addis Ababa is making urgent inquiries to determine whether any Australians were on board Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302,” a DFAT spokesman said.

“At this time, no advice on the nationalities of those on board has been released.”

The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.

The crash comes as the country’s reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has vowed to open up the airline and other sectors to foreign investment in a major transformation of the state- centred economy. It said previously that it expected to carry 10.6 million passengers last year.

In 2010 one of the company’s planes crashed in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after leaving Beirut, killing 90 people on board.

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