Black box from China plane crash found in severely damaged condition

The crash is believed to have killed all 132 people on board. Credit: AP

One of the two black boxes from the China Eastern plane that crashed on Monday has been found in severely damaged condition.

The discovery is expected to help determine what caused the crash - the country's worst air disaster in a decade - which is believed to have killed all 132 people on board.

The Boeing-737, which burst into a ball of fire big enough to be seen on Nasa satellite images, left a pit about the size of a football field in the mountainside in Guangxi province where it crashed, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The black box that has been found is so damaged that it is not yet possible to tell whether it is the flight data recorder or the cockpit voice recorder.

Mao Yanfeng, the director of the accident investigation division of the Civil Aviation Authority of China, told a news conference on Wednesday that an all-out effort is being made to find the other black box.

Rescue workers search for the black boxes at the plane crash site in Tengxian county. Credit: AP/Xinhua

The search for clues into why the plane crashed was suspended on Wednesday due to rain, while earlier, searchers had used drones and sniffer dogs to comb the heavily forested slopes for the recorders.

Video clips posted by China’s state media showed small pieces of the plane scattered over the area. Mud-stained wallets, bank and identity cards have also been recovered.

Investigators say it is too early to speculate on the cause. The plane went into an unexplained dive an hour after departure and stopped transmitting data 96 seconds into the fall.

An air-traffic controller tried to contact the pilots several times after seeing the plane’s altitude drop sharply, but got no reply, Zhu Tao, director of the Office of Aviation Safety at the Civil Aviation Authority of China, said on Tuesday.

“As of now, the rescue has yet to find survivors”, Mr Zhu said. “The public security department has taken control of the site".

 ITV News Asia Correspondent Debi Edward shares more detail from the day of the crash:

Meanwhile, a Bloomberg News review of flight-track data found Flight MU5735 was travelling close to the speed of sound in the moments before it slammed into the mountainside.

Such an impact can obliterate evidence and damage a plane’s data and voice recorders that are designed to withstand most crashes, which could complicate the task for investigators, Bloomberg News said.

Relatives of passengers on the flight began arriving on Wednesday at the gate to Lu village just outside the crash zone, where they, along with reporters on the scene, were stopped by police and officials who used opened umbrellas to block the view beyond.

Relatives of passengers onboard the flight arrive near the crash site on Wednesday. Credit: AP