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66 die as EgyptAir plane plunges into sea

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Relatives of passengers of crashed MS804 Egyptair flight at Cairo Airport yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

Relatives of passengers of crashed MS804 Egyptair flight at Cairo Airport yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

• Officials suspect terrorist attack

EgyptAir flight 804 travelling from Paris to Cairo has plunged into the Mediterranean Sea with 56 passengers and 10 crew members on board.

French President Francois Hollande said in a televised address that the plane had crashed early yesterday.

The plane made “sudden swerves” mid-air and plunged before dropping off radars in the southern Mediterranean, Greece’s defence minister said.

“At 3:39a.m. the course of the aircraft was south and south-east of Kassos and Karpathos islands … immediately after it entered Cairo FIR and made swerves “ Defence Minister, Panos said.

Egypt’s Aviation Minister, Sherif Fathy said terrorism was more likely than technical failure to be the cause of the crash.

“The possibility of having a terror attack is higher than the possibility of having a technical problem]” he told reporters.

Other authorities were more cautious. French president François Holland, Egyptian prime minister Sherif Ismail and the White House said that terrorism could not be ruled out, though Barack Obama’s spokesman added that he knew of no intelligence that “ruled anything in” either.

Egyptian and Greek teams have begun a search and recovery mission.

“Family members of passengers and crew have been already informed and we extend our deepest sympathies to those affected,” EgyptAir said in a statement.

The Airbus A320 passenger jet was flying at 37,000ft when it disappeared on Thursday 16km after entering Egyptian air space, EgyptAir said.

The airline has released toll-free numbers for relatives of the passengers who were on-board: 0800 7777 0000 from any landline in Egypt and +20 2259 89320 for international callers.

“The Greek military, at the moment, seems to be the authority which has the latest on the last known whereabouts of the aircraft,” said Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos, reporting from Athens.

Greek defence sources reported the discovery of two large plastic objects in the southern Mediterranean Sea 80km south of Crete, just hours after flight MS 804 travelling from Paris to Cairo went missing with 66 people on board.

EgyptAir said the plane disappeared from radar with 56 passengers and 10 crew members on board.

Among the passengers were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada. Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, confirmed that a British passport holder was on board the plane.

The plane, on its fifth journey of the day, was travelling at 37,000 feet when it disappeared from radar. It had made a stop in Tunisia before flying to Paris.

EgyptAir says the captain has 6,275 flying hours, including 2,101 on the A320; the copilot has 2,766. The plane was manufactured in 2003.

The US State Department does yet not intend to issue a travel warning to Egypt, spokesman John Kirby has told reporters at a briefing in Washington.

He says it’s too early to make any decisions with respect to the plane crash, and is “not aware that we recorded, saw, photographed or have possession of any electronic indications about what happened.”.



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