UN confirms at least 19 staff killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash

UN confirms 19 staff killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash
Wreckage lies at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed shortly after takeoff at Hejere near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, some 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Sunday, March 10, 2019. Courtesy Photo

Among the dead are seven staff of the World Food Programme (WFP) and two from the Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR). The others were from 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). Six staffs from the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) were also tragically killed.

The Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed shortly after takeoff from the capital Addis Ababa on Sunday, killing more than 150 people on board. The Boeing airliner bound for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, took off at 8:44 am local time, losing contact with air traffic control at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, just six minutes later, according to news reports.

The cause of the disaster is not yet known, although weather conditions were reportedly good and the plane went down in a field near Bishoftu, around 35 miles southeast of the capital. The plane was reportedly carrying passengers from more than 35 different countries.

The dead included at least 32 Kenyans; 18 Canadians; nine each from Ethiopia and France; eight each from the United States, China and Italy; and seven from Britain, according to the airline, officials and news accounts. The identities of many of the victims, including the Americans, have not been released.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says that 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 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.