An Ethiopian Airlines flight has crashed shortly after take-off from Ethiopia’s capital, killing all 157 on board.
Grieving families rushed to airports in Addis Ababa and the plane’s destination, Nairobi in Kenya.
More than 30 nationalities were among the dead, including seven British passengers and one Irish citizen.
The pilot sent out a distress call and was given clearance to return, the airline’s chief executive told reporters.
The state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, widely considered the best-managed airline in Africa, calls itself Africa’s largest carrier and has ambitions of becoming the gateway to the continent.
It is known as an early buyer of new aircraft as it assertively expands.
The airline said 149 passengers and eight crew members were thought to be on the plane.
Kenyans, Canadians, Chinese, Americans, Ethiopians, Italians, French, British, Egyptians, Indians, Slovakians and others were among the dead, said the airline’s chief executive, Tewolde Gebremariam.
The airline later published a photo showing its chief executive standing in the wreckage. Little of the plane could be seen in the freshly churned earth.
He “expresses his profound sympathy and condolences to the families and loved ones of passengers and crew who lost their lives in this tragic accident”, the post on social media said.
The plane had showed unstable vertical speed after take-off, air traffic monitor Flightradar 24 said in a Twitter post. Visibility was clear.
The Ethiopian prime minister’s office offered its “deepest condolences” to families.
The country’s House of People’s Representatives declared Monday a national day of mourning.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office said the cause of the crash would be “communicated promptly to the public as updates come in”. The prime minister visited the crash site on Sunday.
“My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board,” Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
The Addis Ababa-Nairobi route links East Africa’s two largest economic powers and is popular with tourists making their way to safari and other destinations.
Sunburned travellers and tour groups crowd Addis Ababa airport’s waiting areas, along with businessmen from China and elsewhere.
At the airport in Nairobi, worried families gathered.
“I came to the airport to receive my brother but I have been told there is a problem,” said Agnes Muilu. “I just pray that he is safe or he was not on it.”
The Boeing 737-8 MAX was new, delivered to Ethiopian Airlines in mid-November, the airline’s chief executive said. Its last maintenance was on February 4 and it had flown just 1,200 hours.
The pilot was a senior one, joining the airline in 2010, he said.
The Boeing 737-8 MAX was one of 30 being delivered to the airline, Boeing said in a statement in July when the first was delivered.
In a statement, Boeing said it was “deeply saddened” to hear of the crash and that a technical team was ready to provide assistance at the request of the US National Transportation Safety Board.