China says no trace of explosives found in plane crash samples

China said it hasn’t found any evidence of explosive materials in the wreckage of a flight that crashed with 132 people on board.

“Lab tests taken of 66 samples, 41 of which have been completed, showed no major common inorganic explosive or common organic explosive substances have been found,” fire official Zheng Xi said at a briefing in the southern city of Wuzhou on Saturday.

Zhu Tao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China, added that investigators found a transmitter installed close to a missing black box, but haven’t found the flight data recorder itself.

Some 24,000 pieces of wreckage have been retrieved, officials said, and remains of 120 people have been identified. The search is focused on an area with a radius of 300 meters (330 yards) from the main crash site, though part of a wingtip was found 12 kilometers away.

Rescue officials at the press briefing described a difficult search of the crash site, and showed pictures of investigators slogging through mud. The China Eastern Airlines Corp. 737-800 NG crashed in the southern region of Guangxi on March 21 while flying from Kunming to Guangzhou.

The plane plummeted from its cruise altitude of 29,000 feet, leveled off once and then appeared to fall straight down. Chinese state media have said the plane crash left a crater 20 meters deep.

A China Eastern Airlines spokesman attended the briefing on Saturday, saying that it’s been difficult to meet all the needs of relatives of the passengers on the flight.

Many of the relatives are staying at a hotel near the crash site, officials have said.

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