UN chief “deeply saddened” at loss of lives in Ethiopian Airlines plane crash
United Nations: UN chief Antonio Guterres has condoled the death of over 150 passengers, including four Indians and 19 UN staff members, on board a Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines plane which crashed minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa.
The Boeing 737 took-off from Bole International Airport on Sunday and “lost contact” six minutes later before coming down near Tulu Fara village outside the Ethiopian town of Bishoftu, killing all eight crew and 149 passengers on board, including tourists and business travellers.
People from 35 countries were reportedly on board the flight ET 302 when it ploughed into a field, 60-kilometre southeast of Addis Ababa.
According to the Indian Embassy in Ethiopia, the four deceased Indian nationals are Vaidya Pannagesh Bhaskar, Vaidya Hansin Annagesh, Nukavarapu Manisha and Shikha Garg, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) consultant attached with the Environment Ministry.
Secretary-General Guterres said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives” as it emerged that UN staff were also among the dead.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric on Sunday, Guterres conveyed his “heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of the United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the Government and people of Ethiopia”.
According to the UN Department of Safety and Security in Kenya, 19 UN staff members perished in the crash.
The World Food Programme (WFP) lost seven staff members, the Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) lost two, as did the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sudan, World Bank and UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) each lost one staff member. Rest of the deceased staff members are from the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON).
The UN is in contact with the Ethiopian authorities and “working closely with them to establish the details of United Nations personnel who lost their lives in this tragedy,” the Secretary-General said.
The disaster happened on the eve of the UN Environment Assembly when Heads of State, environment ministers and thousands of others will convene for five days in the Kenyan capital.
Many senior UN officials took to social media to express their condolences and sadness.
Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva expressed his “heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families”, saying that one FAO staff member was among the victims.
Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WEP) David Beasley tweeted that “the WFP family mourns today”, adding that “we will do all that is humanly possible to help the families at this painful time”.
In a statement issued later in the day, he said Guterres had called him to express his solidarity and support for the WFP family.
“As we mourn, let us reflect that each of these WFP colleagues were willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place to live. That was their calling, as it is for the rest of the WFP family,” Beasley said.
Houlin Zhao, nternational Telecommunication Union (ITU) Secretary General tweeted his “sincere condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in the plane crash”.
Noting that two ITU staff were on the flight, he said, “our colleagues in Addis Ababa are providing support to their families during this difficult time”.
Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund Henrietta Fore tweeted that “all of us at UNICEF mourn the tragic loss of our UN colleagues and all those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines crash today. May they rest in peace. Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones”.
High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi issued a condolence statement saying: “UNHCR has suffered today a huge loss”.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) Director-General Antonio Vitorino expressed his deep sadness over the lives lost, including a young IOM staff member Anne-Katrin Feigl, who was en route to a training course in Nairobi as part of her role as a Junior Professional Officer.
Indian national Garg was on her way to attend a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting.
Ethiopian Airlines said Kenya had the largest number of casualties with 32, followed by Canada with 18, Ethiopia nine, then Italy, China, and the US with eight each.
Britain and France each had seven people on board, Egypt six, and Germany five. Twelve countries in Africa and 14 in Europe had citizens among the victims.