A China Eastern Boeing 737 with 132 people on board crashed in the southern province of Guangxi on Monday, officials said.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said he was “shocked” to learn of the incident, according to state media CCTV.
Flight MU5735 left Kunming at 1:11 p.m. local time (1:11 a.m. ET) and was due to arrive at Guangzhou in the southeast of the country in less than two hours, according to information on FlightRadar24.
The flight was travelling from Kunming in the western province of Yunnan to the industrial centre of Guangzhou along the east coast.
The plane was cruising at 29,100 feet and began a sharp descent after 2:20 p.m., recovering briefly then resuming the dive before it lost contact. It fell more than 25,000 feet in about two minutes.
China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it was sending a team to the crash site in the Guangxi region.
Satellite data from NASA showed a massive fire just in the area of where the plane went down at the time of the crash.
China Eastern Airlines confirmed the crash and the number of people on board via a statement on Weibo, which is China’s version of Twitter.
The airline said it is sending workers to the site of the crash and has opened a hotline for family members.
The aircraft was delivered to China Eastern from Boeing in June 2015 and had been flying for more than six years.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said it is “aware of reports that a China Eastern Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crashed this morning in China.”
China Eastern changed the colors of its website to black and white — something airlines do following a crash out of respect for passengers’ families.
Shanghai-based China Eastern is one of China’s top three airlines, operating scores of domestic and international routes serving 248 destinations.
China Eastern operates multiple versions of the common aircraft, including the 737-800 and the 737 Max.
The 737 Max version was grounded worldwide after two fatal crashes. China’s last deadly crash of a civilian jetliner was in 2010.