ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – An Ethiopian Airlines flight with 157 people thought to be on board crashed shortly after takeoff Sunday morning from Ethiopia’s capital while headed to Nairobi, the airline said.
There were no immediate details on what caused the crash.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa, calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
The airline’s statement said 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to be on the Boeing 737 that crashed six minutes after departing Addis Ababa on its way to Kenya’s capital.
The crash occurred around Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 31 miles south of the capital, shortly after taking off at 8:38 a.m., the airline said.
While the airline said “search and rescue operations are in progress and we have no confirmed information about survivors or any possible casualties,” a separate statement by the Ethiopian prime minister’s office offered its “deepest condolences” to families.
The last deadly crash of an Ethiopian Airlines passenger plane was in 2010, when the plane crashed minutes after takeoff from Beirut killing all 90 people on board.
Sunday’s 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-centered economy.
Ethiopian Airlines has been expanding assertively, recently opening a route to Moscow and in January inaugurating a new passenger terminal in Addis Ababa to triple capacity.
Speaking at the inauguration, the prime minister challenged the airline to build a new “Airport City” terminal in Bishoftu – where Sunday’s crash occurred.
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