Seven British, seven French, eight Italian and 18 Canadian nationals are among the 157 victims of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash on Sunday.

Thirty-two Kenyan, nine Ethiopian, eight US and eight Chinese nationals were also among the dead, Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde GebreMariam told journalists.

None of the 149 passengers and eight crew members on board the Boeing 737 that crashed en route from Addis Ababa to Nairobi survived, the airline said.

The 157 passengers were of 35 different nationalities, with one person travelling on a United Nations passport, the airline said.

Flight ET 302 crashed near the town of Bishoftu, about 50 kilometres south-east of the Ethiopian capital.

The Boeing 737 took off at 8:38 am (0538 GMT) from Bole International Airport and lost contact a few minutes later, according to the airline.

Shortly after take-off, the senior pilot, who had been working for the airline since 2010, sent a distress call and was given clearance to return, GebreMariam said.

The airline had bought the new plane in November, according to GebreMariam. The plane had flown only 1,200 hours since its purchase and was last maintained on February 4.

The plane had arrived in Addis Ababa on Sunday morning from Johannesburg, South Africa, before taking off for Nairobi a few hours later, according to Ethiopian Airlines.

Boeing said it is “deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the passengers and crew on Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 airplane.”

A Boeing technical team was prepared to provide technical assistance at the request and under the direction of the US National Transportation Safety Board, Boeing said in a statement.

Ethiopian Airlines said it set up a committee with Boeing, the national civil aviation authority, the national transport authority and other experts to conduct forensic investigations and identify the victims.

According to information provided by Boeing and Ethiopian airlines, the Ethiopian airlines plane is the same model as a Lion Air aircraft that crashed off the coast of Indonesia in October, killing 189 people.

The Lion Air plane was also a newly purchased aircraft and had crashed 11 minutes after take-off.

The Ethiopian Airlines Group chief executive said he “deeply regrets the fatal accident,” the airline said on Twitter.

GebreMariam, who had travelled to the scene of the crash, expressed his “profound sympathy and condolences” to the families of all victims, the statement read.

“The Office of the PM, on behalf of the Government and people of Ethiopia, would like to express its deepest condolences to the families of those that have lost their loved ones on Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 on regular scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya this morning,” the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Twitter.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he “was shocked to hear of the terrible crash.”

“The deaths of so many people on board fill me with deep sadness,” Steinmeier added.

French President Emmanuel Macron sent his condolences to all victims and their families. “I share their sadness,” said Macron.

The cause of the crash remained unknown on Sunday.