A China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 which had 132 people on board crashed in mountains in Guangxi on Monday following a sudden descent from cruising altitude.
Media reports said there was no sign of survivors and the airline said it was in mourning for the passengers and crew who had died. The plane was flying from Kunming, in Yunnan province, to Guangzhou.
China Eastern said the cause of the crash, in which the plane descended at a final rate of 31,000 feet per minute, was under investigation. The airline added that it had provided a hotline for relatives of those on board and sent a working group to the site.
Media cited a rescue official as saying the plane had disintegrated, causing a mountain fire. The People's Daily quoted a provincial firefighting department official as saying there was no sign of life among the debris.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) and the airline both said the aircraft, which had 123 passengers and nine crew on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou.
FlightRadar24 data showed the flight left Kunming at 1:11pm and had been due to land in Guangzhou at 3:05pm. The plane had been cruising at an altitude of 29,100 feet but descended to 9,075 feet in just over two minutes. Its last tracked altitude, 15 seconds later, was 3,225 feet.
Online weather data showed partly cloudy conditions with good visibility in Wuzhou at the time of the crash.
President Xi Jinping called for investigators to determine the cause of the crash as soon as possible and to ensure "absolute" aviation safety, state broadcaster CCTV reported.
A Boeing spokesperson said: "We are aware of the initial media reports and are working to gather more information."
China Eastern grounded its fleet of 737-800 planes after the crash, state media reported. China Eastern has 109 of the aircraft in its fleet, according to FlightRadar24.
The safety record of China's airline industry has been among the best in the world over the past decade. According to Aviation Safety Network, China's last fatal jet accident was in 2010, when 44 of 96 people on board were killed when an Embraer E-190 regional jet flown by Henan Airlines crashed on approach to Yichun airport in low visibility. (Reuters)
Last updated: 2022-03-21 HKT 20:49