An Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 to Nairobi crashed on Sunday morning, the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, offering his condolences on social media.
Some 149 passengers and eight crew members were on board the plane when it took off from Bole International Airport, a spokesman for the airline said. It crashed near the town of Bishoftu, 62 kilometres southeast of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.
The Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft flying to the Kenyan capital crashed, but Mr Abiy offeredhis “deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning”.
Ethiopian Airlines confirmed the crash in a statement released shortly after the prime minister’s tweet.
“Ethiopian Airlines regrets to confirm that its flight ET 302/10 March in schedule service from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in an accident today around Bishoftu (Debre Zeit),” the statement said.
The flight took off at 08.38am local time from Addis Ababa before it “lost contact” just six minutes later at 08.44am.
“At this time search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible causalities,” the statement continued.
There was no immediate information on what might have caused the crash.
The airline said it was establishing a passenger information centre and a telephone number for family and friends of those who may have been on the flight.
The National has reached out to Boeing. The chief executive of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The National.
Some flights out of Addis Ababa were delayed or cancelled on Sunday morning.
The state-owned airline calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
The last major crash involving Ethiopian Airlines was in January 2010 when its aircraft, also a Boeing 737, caught fire five minutes after take-off from Beirut International Airport, killing all 89 passengers and crew on board.