China Eastern Airlines crash: One of the plane’s flight recorders is found

HONG KONG — Rescue workers have recovered one of the flight recorders from the Boeing 737 that crashed in southern China, the country’s aviation security agency said on Wednesday.

Authorities are still working to verify whether the black box, whose exterior was damaged, was a flight data recorder or a cockpit voice recorder, Mao Yanfeng, an official with China’s Civil Aviation Administration, told a news conference.

The plane operated by China Eastern Airlines,

was carrying 132 people when it fell to the ground in a rural part of China’s Guangxi region on Monday.

The two black boxes store vital information and typically provide accident investigations with the best information as to what caused an airplane to crash. The devices, both bright orange, are hardened to withstand even strong shocks, and their data can often be useful to investigators even if the boxes are damaged.

Heavy rain hampered search efforts on Wednesday. More than 2,000 rescuers armed with shovels and flashlights combed mountainous terrain and began uncovering human remains at the crash site.

The plane’s wreckage was scattered over a hilly, wooded area. An army of rescuers – including soldiers and firefighters – and excavators dug into the land where the impact of the crash blasted trees and a terraced field, video broadcast by state broadcaster China Central Television showed.

The rain soaked the crash site, forcing rescuers to halt their efforts, CCTV reported, adding that the smell of fuel still lingered at the accident site. The broadcaster said rescue workers had warned the rain could cause small landslides.

Rescue workers have found no survivors at the site where a Boeing 737 crashed in southern China. Footage released by state media appears to show the incident and its aftermath, as searches were underway for more than 130 people. Photo: China Daily/Reuters

The aircraft was carrying nine crew members and 123 passengers. With no survivors found, it could become China’s worst plane crash in nearly three decades.

Ou Ling, an official with the Wuzhou Fire Department, a city in the Guangxi region near the crash site, told CCTV Tuesday that human remains were found. Details of the bodies’ recovery remained scarce in the Chinese media.

Government officials controlled access to the crash site on Wednesday.


Photo:

Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

Mr Ou said the narrow paths to the crash site prevented larger rescue equipment from entering, adding that the lack of lighting facilities in the mountains – particularly at night – made their mission more difficult, according to state media.

A spokesman for China’s airline regulator Zhu Tao said at a briefing late Tuesday that the badly damaged jet has complicated the investigation and the cause of the crash is yet to be determined.

The plane, a Boeing 737-800, is capable of flying and reported no technical problems before takeoff, and its crew are in good health and meeting flight requirements, Chinese officials said Tuesday. China Eastern has been in touch with the family members of all 123 passengers on board, according to Sun Shiying, chairman of the airline’s subsidiary based in southwest China’s Yunnan Province.

Boeing has said it is working with the airline and its experts are ready to help with the investigation.

The China Eastern Airlines crash

write to Elaine Yu at elaine.yu@wsj.com

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