0153 GMT July 20, 2019
"We hereby confirm that our scheduled flight ET 302 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi was involved in accident today," the airline said in a statement, later confirming a report by Ethiopia's FANA Broadcasting Corp that there were no survivors.
"It is believed that there were 149 passengers and eight crew on board the flight," it said.
“There are no survivors,” the airline tweeted alongside a picture of CEO Tewolde GebreMariam holding up a piece of debris inside a large crater at the crash site.
Passengers from 33 countries were aboard, said Tewolde in a news conference. The dead included Kenyan, Ethiopian, American, Canadian, French, Chinese, Egyptian, Swedish, British, Dutch, Indian, Slovakian, Austrian, Swedish, Russian, Moroccan, Spanish, and Polish citizens.
The crash came on the eve of a major, annual assembly of the UN Environment Programme opening in Nairobi.
“We received the airplane on November 15, 2018. It has flown more than 1,200 hours. It had flown from Johannesburg earlier this morning,” he said. “The pilot mentioned that he had difficulties and that he wanted to return.”
Ethiopian’s new aircraft had no recorded technical problems and the pilot had an “excellent” flying record, Tewolde said in a news conference.
State-owned Ethiopian Airlines, Africa's largest carrier, said the plane had taken off at 8:38 a.m. (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and "lost contact" six minutes later near Bishoftu, a town some 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Addis Ababa by road.
The weather in the capital was clear when the brand-new Boeing plane, delivered to Ethiopia last year, plane took off.
The Boeing came down near the village of Tulu Fara outside Bishoftu. There was a massive crater at the crash site, with belongings and airplane parts scattered widely.
Rescue crews were retrieving human remains from the wreckage. Police and troops were on the scene, as well as a crash investigation team from Ethiopia's civil aviation agency.
In the Kenyan capital, family members, friends, and colleagues of passengers were frantically waiting for news at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).
Among those waiting, Khalid Ali Abdulrahman received happy news about his son, who works in Dubai.
"I arrived here shortly after 10:00 a.m. and as I waited, a security person approached me and asked me which flight are you waiting for. I answered him quickly because I wanted him to direct me to the arrivals, so I told him Ethiopia, and then he said: 'Sorry, that one has crashed'."
"I was shocked, but shortly after, my son contacted me and told me he is still in Addis and did not board that flight, he is waiting for the second one which has been delayed," Khalid said.
"I am waiting for my colleague, I just hope for the best," added Hannah, a Chinese national.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office tweeted it "would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones."
Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta said he was "saddened" by the news, adding: "My prayers go to all the families and associates of those on board."
The plane's maker, US giant company Boeing, said it was "aware" of the accident "and is closely monitoring the situation."
Ethiopian Airlines said it would set up a passenger information center and a dedicated telephone number for family and friends of people who may have been on the flight.
AFP and Reuters contributed to this story.