The plane lost contact just six minutes after leaving the Ethiopian airport.
Sunday’s flight left Bole airport in Addis Ababa at 8:38 a.m. (0538 GMT), before losing contact with the control tower just a few minutes later at 8:44 a.m.
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, Polish, and Israeli citizens.
“We're just waiting for my mum. We're just hoping she took a different flight or was delayed. She's not picking up her phone,” said Wendy Otieno, clutching her phone and weeping.
The CEO of Ethiopian Airlines, Tewolde Gebremariam, said Sunday that a pilot of the crashed plane, Mohammed Nur Mohammed, had more than 200 flight hours and that the plane was “new and clean” and received its first maintenance check in early February. He also paid condolences to the passengers and crew who died.
The aircraft, a 737 MAX 8, is the same model that crashed into the Java Sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Oct 29, killing all 189 people on board the Lion Air flight. The cause of that crash is still under investigation.
African Union commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat said he had learned of the crash "with utter shock and immense sadness", while 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, and Mahboub Maalim, executive secretary of the IGAD East African bloc, said the region and the world were in mourning.