No Survivors in China Eastern Plane Crash With 132 On Board

BEIJING — Chinese authorities officially confirmed Saturday that there were no survivors in the crash of a China Eastern 737-800 earlier this week with 132 people on board.

A Chinese official of Civil Aviation Administration of China announced the news at a late-night conference. After that, there was silence for a moment. State media reports that 120 victims were identified by DNA analysis.

The flight from the city of Kunming in southwestern China was flying at 29,000 feet (8,800 meters) on Monday when it suddenly nosedived into a mountainous area, shortly before it would have started its descent to the airport in Guangzhou, a provincial capital and export manufacturing hub near Hong Kong on China’s southeastern coast.

In search of wreckage and remains, construction excavators dug at the site on Saturday. Although the pilot voice recorder was located on Wednesday by the search team, the flight data recorder has not been found.

Knee-high rubber boots were worn by workers who had to use shovels or other tools to dig up the earthen slopes. This was done in the pit created by the plane, which is 20 meters deep (65 feet). The debris, along with other objects were collected into dozens of plastic rectangular containers stained by mud.

As the water was drained from the area of rainy Guizhou, the search proved difficult due to the conditions. Pumps were used. CCTV, a state broadcaster reported that one excavator quit working because it was partially jammed.

It remains unknown what caused the accident. An air traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after seeing the plane’s altitude drop sharply but got no reply, officials have said.

According to authorities, forensic and penal investigation specialists had verified the identities of six crew members as well as 114 passengers.

China Eastern, one of China’s four major airlines, and its subsidiaries have grounded all of their 737-800 aircraft, a total of 223 planes. The airline said that the grounded aircraft were a precautionary measure and was not indicative of any problem.

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