By: Edinah Masanga
Rescuers from a Chinese company based in Ethiopia have been helping with recovery efforts at the site of Sunday’s tragic plane crash which killed all 149 passengers and eight crew members.
The Ethiopian Airlines aircraft departed Addis Ababa Bole International Airport on Sunday morning bound for Kenya’s Nairobi, but contact was lost just minutes after take off and the plane crashed near the town of Bishoftu, killing all on-board.
The airline said on Monday that the black box data recorder from the fallen plane has been recovered as the investigation into the accident gathers pace, while the search for bodies and plane parts continues.
According to an official from the Ethiopian branch of China Railway Seventh Group, which had been undertaking work in a China-invested project nearby, the company soon offered their services to join in with the search and rescue operation at the request of Ethiopian Airlines.
Wang Guanghui, a project manager with the company, said the rescuers did not see any major parts of the airplane when they rushed to the site, with a huge crater created in the ground, such was the apparent force of the impact.
Rescuers were also astonished to find out that the 20-plus-meter-long aircraft had been severely crushed beyond recognition, while debris has been scattered across an area of around 10,000 square meters nearby.
“The cockpit has dived deep into the ground and due to the giant impact force, all the parts were squeezed together. After we dug out all the them, a pit of nearly 20 meters deep showed up like this, which is the deepest level the plane crashed into. We did not find any complete items during the digging, not even a complete seat. All the parts were so crushed and smashed [due to the crash], with not even one item staying complete enough that we could tell what it is from its appearance,” said Wang.
He said the company dispatched four large diggers and over 20 rescuers, all of whom worked for about 30 hours continuously at the site. However, the search operation remains complicated, as the plane was so badly decimated in the devastating crash.
“Because all the debris of the plane was mixed with the earth so it was very hard to pick them out. So we discussed with the Ethiopia Airlines and decided to expand the debris field to an area much larger than where the debris actually scattered. So once we cleared the earth around, a relatively complete body of the plane showed up in the middle, and it is then easier for rescuers to lift it up to the ground,” Wang said.
The salvage and clear-up work of all the debris at the accident site is expected to be completed over the course of the next few days, while the crater will be filled in according to international conventions.
Sunday’s incident was the second crash of a Boeing 737 Max plane in less than six months, after a Lion Air jet crashed in Indonesia last year on October 29, killing 189 people.
As of Wednesday, many countries including Ethiopia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, UK and Germany have banned all use of Boeing 737 Max 8. DailySweden