Video Shows Moment China Eastern Airlines Plane Nosedives Before Crash

A massive rescue operation is underway after a Chinese passenger plane with 132 people on board crashed in a mountainous area of southern China on Monday.

A video shared on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, shows the dramatic moment when the Boeing 737-800 operated by China Eastern Airlines plunged to earth in the Guangxi region in what could be the worst plane crash in recent Chinese history.

Chinese media reports have indicated that there are no signs of survivors, although an official death toll has yet to be reported by authorities, Reuters reported.

The plane was flying from Kunming, in southwestern China, to Guangzhou, southern China, when the crash happened on Monday afternoon local time.

Data from Flightradar24 shows that the aircraft—Flight MU5735—was traveling at an altitude of 30,000 feet when suddenly at 2:20 p.m. local time it started losing altitude and two minutes later it was plunging almost vertically to the ground at a speed of 31,000 feet per minute.

The plane is estimated to have descended in just over a minute.

Videos showed a huge sheet of flame and plumes of smoke billowing from the spot where the plane hit the ground, igniting a forest fire which was quickly extinguished. The site was identified by the local emergency department as Molang village.

Chinese state media said the local police received the first calls for help from villagers at 2:30 p.m. local time, 15 minutes after communication with the aircraft was lost.

There was a total of 132 people on board flight MU5735, including 123 passengers and 9 crew members, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

FlightRadar24 China Eastern plane crash
This screenshot from Flightradar24 shows the playback of flight MU5735. FlightRadar24

President Xi Jinping ordered a large-scale rescue operation at the site, involving nearly 1,000 firefighters and more than 100 other emergency workers, according to Guangxi's fire department.

It could be one of the worst disasters in the recent history of China's aviation. The country hasn't reported the crash of a passenger flight since August 2010, when a plane operated by Henan Airlines crashed not far from the runway, killing at least 44 of the 92 people aboard.

In that case, the incident was blamed on an error committed by the pilot.

China Eastern turned its website and social media profile images to black and white in a sign of mourning and opened up an emergency assistance number.

The crash led China Eastern Airlines to announce it would ground all of its Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

Shares of Chicago-based Boeing, the manufacturer of the plane, dropped by as much as nine percent in pre-market trading on Monday.

The crash comes at a sensitive time for Boeing as its 737 MAX—a different model to the aircraft involved in Monday's crash—is reported to be close to resuming commercial flights in China after two fatal crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia led to it being grounded.

Update, 3/21/22 11:10 a.m. ET: This article has been updated to include later information and a new video.