People around the world are mourning the loss of their loved ones after an Ethiopian Airlines passenger jet on Sunday crashed en route to Nairobi from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.
It was not immediately clear what caused the crash of the recently-acquired Boeing 737 MAX 8 model, which was involved in another aviation disaster in Indonesia last year.
Shortly after take-off at 05:38 GMT, the pilot reported an unspecified issue and was given permission to return to the Ethiopian capital’s Bole airport. Minutes later, communication was lost and the plane plunged to the ground near the city of Bishoftu.
The victims – 149 passengers and eight crew members – included at least 35 nationalities. United Nations staff were among those killed.
As the news of the crash united the world in grief, an outpouring of shock and sadness spread on social media.
In a post on Twitter, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office expressed its “deepest condolences” to the families of the victims, while authorities declared Monday a day of national mourning. Nine Ethiopians were killed in the crash.
Social media users sent their prayers to the families and victims of the “tragic accident”, while others expressed agony as they waited to find out whether their relatives were on board the flight or not.
Salim Amin, son of renowned photojournalist Mohamed “Mo” Amin, who was killed in 1996 when an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed off Comoros during a botched hijacking, took to Twitter to express his “sincere condolences” but also praise the carrier’s safety track record.
“I remember when I lost my father on #ET961,” Amin, chairman of Camerapix and founder of The Mohamed Amin Foundation, wrote.
“But that was not fault of the amazing @flyethiopian,” he added, as he remembered Mo Amin who died when his flight Ethiopian Airlines Flight 961 was hijacked and crashed into the ocean.
With 32 people on board the Flight ET 302 hailing from Kenya, the East African country suffered the most losses in the accident.
Among the victims was Hussein Swaleh, the former secretary general of the Kenyan football federation, who was due to return home after working as the match commissioner in an African Champions League game in Egypt on Friday.
“Sad day for football,” Nick Mwendwa, the president of the federation, wrote on Twitter.
At the airport in the Kenyan capital, meanwhile, weeping relatives and friends begged for answers.
“I feel very weak. I wish they can give me information so that I can accept and move on,” Edward Gathu, whose brother, Benson, who was on the flight, told Al Jazeera.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta offered prayers for the family members and loved ones of those on the flight.
Nairobi is due to host a UN environmental conference on Monday, and Antonio Guterres, the world body’s chief, confirmed in a statement that among the victims were UN staff.
Guterres said he was “deeply saddened” by the crash and sent his sympathies to the families of the victims.
David Beasley, the UN’s World Food Program director, also said his organisation had lost employees.
Meanwhile, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi expressed “great sadness and shock” as colleagues were among the victims.
His office said it was working to determine how many of the refugee agency’s staff were on board the plane.
In Canada, the country with the second-highest number of victims, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also took to Twitter to express his grief, including for the 18 Canadians who perished.
“Devastating news from Ethiopia this morning,” he wrote.
“Our thoughts are with all the victims on flight ET302, including the Canadians who were on board, and everyone who lost friends, family, or loved ones.”
An Italian aid group that partners with UNICEF in northern Africa said one of its founders, Paolo Dieci, was among the dead. UNICEF Italy sent a message of condolences
In total, eight Italians were killed. Three belonged to the Bergamo-based humanitarian group Africa Tremila and one was the Sicily regional assessor to the culture ministry, officials said.
France’s government said eight of its citizens were among those killed and announced the opening of a crisis centre for their families.
The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had launched an investigation into crash, without elaborating. It is a standard procedure when French citizens are killed abroad.
President Emmanuel Macron sent his condolences.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May expressed sadness at the “devastating” news. Seven British citizens were among the victims.
Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas released a statement paying tribute to the victims of the crash, including his five compatriots among them.
“Today we received the news of the terrible crash of the Ethiopian airlines plane in the direction of Nairobi which has killed so many people. In these hard times, our thoughts are with the families and relatives of the victims, to whom I express my heartfelt condolences,” Maas said.
Angela Merkel’s spokeswoman Martina Fietz said on Twitter that the German chancellor expressed her “deeply felt condolences and sympathy for the relatives of the victims”.
The foreign ministry of Somalia, which also lost one citizen, offered its “sincere condolences”.
Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari extended his sincere condolences to Ethiopia, and to all the countries that lost citizens.
Amina J Mohammed, the UN’s deputy secretary-general, also expressed her deepest condolences about the “devastating loss”.
“The spirit of Africa will keep on soaring,” she said.