A Boeing 737-800 China Eastern Airlines with 132 people on board crashed in the mountains of southern China on a domestic flight after a sudden descent from a cruising altitude.
The media reported that there were no signs of survivors.
The airline said it was deeply saddened by passengers and crews, without specifying how many people had been killed.
Chinese media showed short videos of the highway from the car’s DVR, which shows a jet diving to the ground behind the trees at an angle of about 35 degrees from the vertical.
Reuters was unable to immediately check the footage.
The plane was flying from the southwestern city of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, which borders Hong Kong, when it crashed.
China Eastern said the cause of the crash, in which the plane was descending at 31,000 feet per minute, according to the flight tracking site FlightRadar24, is under investigation.
The airline said it had set up a hotline for relatives of those on board and sent a task force to the scene.
There were no foreigners on the flight, according to Chinese state television, citing China Eastern.
The media, citing a rescue official, said the plane crashed and caused a fire that destroyed bamboo trees.
The People’s Daily quoted a provincial fire department official as saying there were no signs of life among the wreckage.
State media showed a piece of the plane on the earthen slope of the hill.
There were no traces of the fire or personal belongings.
The plane, which had 123 passengers and nine crew members on board, lost contact over the city of Wuzhou, the Chinese Civil Aviation Authority (CAAC) and the airline said.
Flightradar24 revealed that the aircraft was six years old.
Accidents during the cruise phase of flights are relatively rare, even if this stage accounts for most of the flight time.
Last year, Boeing said only 13 percent of the world’s fatal commercial accidents between 2011 and 2020 occurred during the cruise phase, while 28 percent occurred at the final approach and 26 percent during landing.
“Usually during a cruise, the plane is on autopilot. So it’s very difficult to understand what happened,” said Li Xiaodin, a Chinese aviation expert.
Internet weather data showed that at the time of the accident in the city of Wuzhou, partly cloudy weather with good visibility.
President Xi Jinping has called on investigators to determine the cause of the crash as soon as possible, according to state-run CCTV.
A Boeing spokesman said: “We are aware of the initial media reports and are working to gather more information.”
Shares of Boeing Co fell 5 percent on Monday.
Shares of China Eastern Airlines in Hong Kong closed at 6.5 percent after news of the crash, while shares quoted in the US fell 17 percent in pre-market trading.
China Eastern has shut down its fleet of 737-800 aircraft after the crash, state media reported.
There are 109 planes in China Eastern Park, FlightRadar24 reports.
Aviation data provider OAG said this month that state-owned China Eastern Airlines is the world’s sixth-largest carrier in terms of planned weekly seats.
The 737-800 has a good safety record and is the forerunner of the 737 MAX model, which is in China for more than three years after the fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia.
China’s airline safety score has been one of the best in the world for ten years.
“CAAC has very strict security rules, and we will have to wait for more information,” said Shukor Yousaf, head of Malaysia-based consulting firm Endau Analytics.
Investigators will look for the plane’s black boxes – a flight recorder and cockpit voice recorder – to shed light on the crash.
According to the Aviation Safety Network, the last fatal crash in China occurred in 2010, when 44 of the 96 people on board were killed when an Embraer E-190 regional plane operated by Henan Airlines crashed on the way to Yichun Airport.