At China plane crash site, relatives wait in grim vigil

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1 min read
Crash of a China Eastern Airlines 737-800

By Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Suen

WUZHOU, China – As recovery teams searched mountainous terrain for victims of Monday’s plane crash https://www.reuters.com/world/china/china-launches-inspection-airlines-search-crash-victims-continue-2022-03-23 in southern China, a man surnamed Zhang whose nephew was among the 132 people aboard the Boeing 737-800 said his biggest hope, of finding him alive, was unrealistic.

A retiree in his 60s who asked that his full name not be used, Zhang had driven with his son on Tuesday from the southern city of Shenzhen.

“I hope the country can thoroughly investigate this matter and find out whether it is the manufacturer’s fault or a maintenance problem,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

“I came with my son and planned to stay until the matter is sorted out and take his ashes back. But this depends on the work of the government,” he said.

Dozens of family members congregated at the heavily-secured checkpoint leading to the site in Teng county in southern China’s Guangxi region in pairs or small groups on Wednesday. Some arrived in government convoys, accompanied by officials.

Zhang’s nephew, in his 40s and surnamed Sun, lived in the eastern city of Nanjing with his wife and two sons. He worked in water conservation and had been on a business trip when the China Eastern jet crashed on its way from Kunming in the southwest to the coastal metropolis of Guangzhou.

Most of the jet appears to have disintegrated upon impact, and no survivors have been found.

“To start with… I just felt shocked about the news,” Zhang recalled during a break in heavy rain that disrupted search efforts, speaking slowly and holding back tears.

As he spoke to reporters, Zhang tried to give them lunchboxes provided by officials, saying they looked hungry.

“About half an hour later, I found out that someone from my family was on this plane, you can imagine how we feel,” he said.

“Such a big disaster, the whole country feels hurt,” he said of hearing the news of Monday afternoon’s accident, China’s first deadly airline crash in over a decade.

Another relative at the site, a 57-year-old man surnamed Ding whose brother’s sister-in-law had been on the plane, had not given up hope.

“All I want is hope, the hope of survival,” he said.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Suen; Writing by Tony Munroe; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)

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