China plane crash: ‘Severely damaged’ black box from Boeing 737 found in Guangxi

No survivors from the crash have been found

Terrain and rain hamper search at site of China plane crash

A search team in China has found one of the black boxes in a severely damaged condition from the Boeing 737-800 airplane that crashed in Guangxi on Monday.

Authorities said the recorder was so damaged that they were unable to tell whether it was the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder. After two days of searching, Liu Lusong, a spokesperson for the Chinese aviation authority, announced the discovery of a recorder from the China Eastern MU5735 flight.

Recovering the black boxes is key to figuring out the cause behind the plane’s unexplained nosedive an hour after departure.

Follow the latest updates on the China Eastern plane crash in our live blog here

Search teams are now focusing all their efforts on finding the other black box, Mao Yanfeng, the director of the accident investigation division of the Civil Aviation Authority of China, told a news conference.

Meanwhile, the search and rescue operation was temporarily suspended on Wednesday due to heavy rains that filled the red-dirt gash formed by the plane’s impact.

The China Eastern plane carrying 132 people was about an hour away from its destination when it suddenly nosedived from cruising altitude, dropping 29,000ft in around two minutes and crashing into hills outside the city of Wuzhou. It was travelling from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, to Guangzhou in Guangdong province.

Videos shared by China’s state media show small pieces of the aircraft scattered over a wide forested area and others in burnt-out patches of bare earth left after trees were destroyed by fire.

No survivors from the crash have been found. An air-traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after noticing a sharp drop in the plane's altitude but didn't receive any reply, Zhu Tao, director of the Office of Aviation Safety at the Civil Aviation Authority of China, said at a news conference on Tuesday evening.

The plane had pulled out of a 22,000-feet dive and begun to climb back before another dive sent the aircraft jet plummeting to the ground. Data provided by Swedish air traffic monitoring service FlightRadar24 suggested that the plane was cruising at an altitude of 29,100ft when it went into a high-speed dive at 2.20pm on 21 March.

A preliminary investigation found the weather on the route of the flight was suitable for flying and the communication between the flight was normal till its sudden drop in altitude.

Relatives of the 123 passengers and nine crew members arrived at the gate to Lu village just outside the site of the crash. One woman was overheard saying her husband, the father of their two children, had been on board the doomed flight.

“I’m just going in there to take a look. Am I breaking the law?” she said, according to the Associated Press as officials tried to block the view beyond.

Following the crash, the state carrier grounded its entire fleet of Boeing 737-800s and suspended 89 per cent of flights on Tuesday.

The airlines in a statement quoted by Global Times said that the maintenance of MU5735 had been carried out in “strict accordance with the maintenance technical program”.

“Its technical condition was stable and normal during take-off. Before take-off, the aircraft met the maintenance release criteria and airworthiness requirements,” it said.

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