Ethiopia, China and Indonesia ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft

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Members of the Ethiopian Airline Pilots' Association mourn as they attend a memorial service for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane that crashed, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2019. (Reuters)
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A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane delivered to Air China during a ceremony at Boeing Zhoushan 737 Completion and Delivery Center in Zhoushan, in December. (AFP)
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Members of the Ethiopian Airline Pilots' Association mourn as they attend a memorial service for the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane that crashed, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 11, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 13 March 2019
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Ethiopia, China and Indonesia ground all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft

  • The new plane crashed shortly after takeoff in clear weather outside Addis Ababa on Sunday
  • Ethiopian Airlines said plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders were found

EJERE, Ethiopia: Authorities in Ethiopia, China and Indonesia grounded all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft Monday following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jetliner that killed 157 people, and investigators found the flight recorders from the field where the plane went down.
The new plane crashed shortly after takeoff in clear weather outside Addis Ababa on Sunday, and the airline decided to ground its remaining four 737 Max 8s until further notice as “an extra safety precaution,” spokesman Asrat Begashaw said. Ethiopian Airlines had been using five of the planes and awaiting delivery of 25 more.


As Ethiopia observed a day of mourning, Red Cross workers slowly picked through the widely scattered debris near the blackened crash crater, looking for the remains of those aboard, while heavy machinery dug for larger pieces of the plane.
The plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders were found, Ethiopian Airlines said. An airline official, however, said one of the recorders was partially damaged and “we will see what we can retrieve from it.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authorization to speak to the media.

A Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane delivered to Air China during a ceremony at Boeing Zhoushan 737 Completion and Delivery Center in Zhoushan, in December. (AFP)


Ethiopian authorities are leading the investigation into the crash, assisted by the US, Kenya and others.
“These kinds of things take time,” Kenya’s Transport Minister James Macharia told reporters.
Sunday’s crash was strikingly similar to that of a Lion Air jet of the same Boeing model in Indonesian seas last year, killing 189 people. The crash was likely to renew questions about the 737 Max 8, the newest version of Boeing’s popular single-aisle airliner, which was first introduced in 1967 and has become the world’s most common passenger jet.
Safety experts cautioned against drawing too many comparisons between the two crashes until more is known about the disaster. Besides the groundings in China and Indonesia, Caribbean carrier Cayman Airways temporarily grounded their Max 8s.

People from 35 countries died in the crash six minutes after the plane took off from Ethiopia’s capital for Nairobi. Ethiopian Airlines said the senior pilot issued a distress call and was told to return but all contact was lost shortly afterward. The plane plowed into the ground at Hejere near Bishoftu, scattering debris like a shredded book, a battered passport and business cards in multiple languages.
“I heard this big noise,” resident Tsegaye Reta told the AP. “The villagers said that it was a plane crash, and we rushed to the site. There was a huge smoke that we couldn’t even see the plane. The parts of the plane were falling apart.”

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Kenya lost 32 people, more than any country. Relatives of 25 of the victims had been contacted, Macharia said, and taking care of their welfare was of utmost importance.
“Some of them, as you know, they are very distressed,” he said. “They are in shock like we are. They are grieving.”
In Addis Ababa, members of an association of Ethiopian airline pilots cried uncontrollably for their dead colleagues. Framed photos of seven crew members sat in chairs at the front of a crowded room.
Canada, Ethiopia, the US, China, Italy, France, Britain, Egypt, Germany, India and Slovakia all lost four or more citizens.
Leaders of the United Nations, the UN refugee agency and the World Food Program said colleagues had been on the plane. The UN migration agency estimated that 19 UN-affiliated employees were killed.
Both Addis Ababa and Nairobi are major hubs for humanitarian workers, and some had been on their way to a large UN environmental conference set to begin Monday in Nairobi. The UN flag at the event flew at half-staff.
The crash shattered more than two years of relative calm in African skies, where travel had long been chaotic. It also was a serious blow to the Ethiopian Airlines, which has expanded to become the continent’s largest and best-managed carrier and turned Addis Ababa into the gateway to Africa.
The state-owned carrier has a good reputation and the company’s CEO told reporters no problems were seen before Sunday’s fight. But investigators also will look into the plane’s maintenance, which may have been an issue in the Lion Air crash.
The plane was delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in November. The jet’s last maintenance was on Feb. 4, and it had flown just 1,200 hours.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration said that it ordered airlines to ground all 737 Max 8 aircraft as of 6 p.m. (1000 GMT) Monday, in line with the principle of “zero tolerance for security risks.”
It said it would issue further notices after consulting with the US Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing.
China Southern Airlines is one of Boeing’s biggest customers for the aircraft.
Chicago-based Boeing said it did not intend to issue any new guidance to its customers. It plans to send a technical team to the crash site to help Ethiopian and US investigators, however, and issued a statement saying it was “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew” on the Ethiopian Airlines Max airplane.
The 737 is the best-selling airliner in history, and the Max, the newest version of it with more fuel-efficient engines, is a central part of Boeing’s strategy to compete with European rival Airbus.
“Safety is our No. 1 priority and we are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this accident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved,” the company said in a statement.

 


Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

Updated 28 min ago
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Scores dead in bomb attacks across Sri Lankan capital

  • Attacks happened as Christians attended Easter Sunday services
  • Sri Lankan police chief warned of planned attacks by radical Muslim group on ‘prominent churches’ 10 days before deadly blasts

COLOMBO: At least 156 people, including 35 foreigners, were killed in Sri Lanka on Sunday, when a string of blasts ripped through high-end hotels and churches as worshippers attended Easter services.

A hospital source said Americans, British and Dutch citizens were among those killed in the six blasts, which also injured hundreds of people.

Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe condemned the blasts as “cowardly” and said the government was working to “contain the situation.”

The public has been told to excercise caution in the following days, with emergency numbers being circulated for people who want to seek help.

The country’s police chief made a nationwide alert 10 days before the blasts that suicide bombers planned to hit “prominent churches,” according to the warning seen by AFP.

Police chief Pujuth Jayasundara sent an intelligence warning to top officers on April 11 setting out the threat.

“A foreign intelligence agency has reported that the NTJ (National Thowheeth Jama’ath) is planning to carry out suicide attacks targeting prominent churches as well as the Indian high commission in Colombo,” said the alert.

The NTJ is a radical Muslim group in Sri Lanka that came to notice last year when it was linked to the vandalization of Buddhist statues.

A police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said at least 42 people were killed in Colombo, where three hotels and a church were hit.

The first explosions were reported at St. Anthony’s Shrine — a church in Colombo — and St. Sebastian’s Church in the town of Negombo just outside the capital. Dozens of people injured in the St. Anthony’s blast flooded into the Colombo National Hospital by mid-morning, an official told AFP.

“A bomb attack to our church, please come and help if your family members are there,” read a post in English on the Facebook page of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Katuwapitiya in Negombo.

Shortly after those blasts were reported, police confirmed three hotels in the capital had also been hit, along with a church in Batticaloa.

An official at one of the hotels, the Cinnamon Grand Hotel near the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, told AFP that the blast had ripped through the hotel restaurant. He said at least one person had been killed in the blast.

An official at the Batticaloa hospital told AFP more than 300 people had been admitted with injuries following the blast there.

(Reuters)

“Emergency meeting called in a few minutes. Rescue operations underway,” Sri Lanka’s Minister of Economic Reforms and Public Distribution, Harsha de Silva, said in a tweet on his verified account.

He said he had been to two of the attacked hotels and was at the scene at St. Anthony’s Shrine, and described “horrible scenes.” “I saw many body parts strewn all over,” he tweeted, adding that there were “many casualties including foreigners.”

“Please stay calm and indoors,” he added. Photos circulating on social media showed the roof of one church had been almost blown off in the blast.

The floor was littered with a mixture of roof tiles, splintered wood and blood. Several people could be seen covered in blood, with some trying to help those with more serious injuries. The images could not immediately be verified.

Only around six percent of mainly Buddhist Sri Lanka is Catholic, but the religion is seen as a unifying force because it includes people from both the Tamil and majority Sinhalese ethnic groups.