27 May 2019

World unites in grief as Ethiopian Airlines crash kills 157

KONFRO0NTASI-People around the world are mourning the loss of their loved ones after an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet on Sunday crashed en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board. 

It was not immediately clear what caused the crash of the recently-acquired Boeing 737 MAX 8 model, which was involved in another aviation disaster in Indonesia last year.

Shortly after take-off at 05:38 GMT, the pilot reported an unspecified issue and was given permission to return to the Ethiopian capital's Bole airport. Minutes later, communication was lost and the plane plunged to the ground near the city of Bishoftu.

The victims - 149 passengers and eight crew members - included at least 35 nationalities. United Nations staff were among those killed.

As the news of the crash united the world in grief, an outpouring of shock and sadness spread on social media.

In a post on Twitter, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office expressed its "deepest condolences" to the families of the victims, while authorities declared Monday a day of national mourning. Nine Ethiopians were killed in the crash.

Social media users sent their prayers to the families and victims of the "tragic accident", while others expressed agony as they waited to find out whether their relatives were on board the flight or not.

Salim Amin, son of renowned photojournalist Mohamed "Mo" Amin, who was killed in 1996 when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed off Comoros during a botched hijacking, took to Twitter to express his "sincere condolences" but also praise the carrier's safety track record.

"I remember when I lost my father on #ET961," Amin, chairman of Camerapix and founder of The Mohamed Amin Foundation, wrote.

"But that was not fault of the amazing @flyethiopian," he added, as he remembered Mo Amin who died when his flight Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked and crashed into the ocean. 

'I feel very weak'

With 32 people on board the Flight ET 302 hailing from Kenya, the East African country suffered the most losses in the accident.

Among the victims was Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Kenyan football federation, who was due to return home after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.

"Sad day for football," Nick Mwendwa, the president of the federation, wrote on Twitter. 

At the airport in the Kenyan capital, meanwhile, weeping relatives and friends begged for answers.

"I feel very weak. I wish they can give me information so that I can accept and move on," Edward Gathu, whose brother, Benson, who was on the flight, told Al Jazeera.

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta offered prayers for the family members and loved ones of those on the flight.

UN mourns

Nairobi is due to host a UN environmental conference on Monday, and Antonio Guterres, the world body's chief, confirmed in a statement that among the victims were UN staff.

Guterres said he was "deeply saddened" by the crash and sent his sympathies to the families of the victims.

David Beasley, the UN's World Food Program director, also said his organisation had lost employees.

Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed "great sadness and shock" as colleagues were among the victims.

His office said it was working to determine how many of the refugee agency's staff were on board the plane.

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