French president confirms EgyptAir flight ‘crashed’

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CAIRO: French President Francois Hollande confirmed Thursday that the EgyptAir flight that disappeared from radar screens over the Mediterranean had “crashed”.

“We must ensure that we know everything on the causes of what happened. No hypothesis is ruled out or favoured,” he said in a televised address.

French President Francois Hollande attends a national conference on disability at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 19, 2016.

“Whether it was an accident or another hypothesis that everyone has on their mind — a terrorist hypothesis… at this stage we must focus on our solidarity with the families and the search for the causes of the catastrophe,” Hollande added.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said its accident department had opened an investigation into the crash.

Family members of passengers who were flying aboard an EgyptAir plane that vanished from radar en route from Paris to Cairo overnight are transported by bus to a gathering point at Cairo airport on May 19, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo crashed into the Mediterranean between the Greek islands and the Egyptian coast early Thursday with 66 people on board.

“We feel solidarity and compassion. It’s not the first such catastrophe, and we know what it means for families and loved ones,” Hollande said.

An EgyptAir plane missing with 66 people on board probably crashed into the sea, officials from the airline and the Egyptian civil aviation said on Thursday.

Families of passengers who were flying in an EgyptAir plane that vanished from radar en route from Paris to Cairo react as they wait outside a services hall at Cairo airport on May 19, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

The Airbus (AIR.PA) A320 aircraft flying from Paris to Cairo went missing on Thursday, disappearing from radar over the Mediterranean Sea, EgyptAir said earlier.

A tweet on the airline’s official account said flight MS804 left Paris at 23:09 pm local time, “heading to Cairo (and) has disappeared from radar”.

Rescue services from the Egyptian armed forces reported receiving a distress signal at 04:26 am local time from the EgyptAir plane, an official from the airline said in a statement.

The Airbus 320 disappeared from Egyptian air space almost two hours earlier, at 02:30 am, some 280 kms from the Egyptian coastline, according to EgyptAir. It had been due to land at 03:15 a.m. No further details were provided as to the nature of the distress signal.

Relatives of passengers who were flying in an EgyptAir plane that vanished from radar en route from Paris to Cairo leave a services hall at Cairo airport on May 19, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

Egypt’s foreign ministry exchanged condolences with France over what it called the “fall” of an EgyptAir flight. The statement was the first official admission that those on board were likely to have died. The plane was carrying people from multiple nationalities including 30 Egyptians and 15 French nationals. The flight was three children, including two babies. Egypt’s foreign ministry said in its statement that the two countries had agreed to cooperate closely in investigating the causes of the incident.

Greek air traffic controllers spoke to the pilot over the island of Kea, in what was thought to be the last broadcast from the aircraft. “The pilot did not mention any problems,” Kostas Litzerakis, head of Greece’s civil aviation department told Reuters. It exited Greek airspace at 3.27 am local time  and entered Cairo airspace. Two minutes later it vanished from Greek radars, Litzerakis said.

Further tweets in Arabic said contact was lost at 02:45 Cairo time, when the plane was just inside Egyptian airspace and at an altitude of 37,000 feet.

There were 59 passengers and 10 crew aboard, according to the airline.

“EGYPTAIR has contacted the concerned authorities and bodies and inspection is underway through the rescue teams,” another tweet in English said.

The Flightradar24 website said MS804 is an Airbus A320-232, and was delivered to the airline in 2003.

Egypt prime minister says cannot rule out terrorism 

Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said on Thursday that the search was underway to find the missing EgyptAir plane and it was too early to rule out any explanation for the incident, including terrorism.

“Search operations are ongoing at this time for the airplane in the area where it is believed to have lost contact,” he told reporters at Cairo airport.

Asked by a journalist if he could rule out that terrorists were behind the incident, Ismail said: “We cannot exclude anything at this time or confirm anything. All the search operations must be concluded so we can know the cause.” Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will chair a national security council meeting on Thursday morning, a statement from his office said. It did not say if the meeting would discuss the plane.

30 Egyptians, 15 French among passengers on vanished flight: EgyptAir

The flight was carrying 30 Egyptian and 15 French passengers, as well as a Briton and a Canadian, the airline said.

An Algerian, a Belgian, a Chadian, two Iraqis, a Kuwaiti, a Portuguese, a Saudi and a Sudanese were also on board the flight, EgyptAir said in a statement.

French PM says ‘no theory can be ruled out’ on missing EgyptAir flight

France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls said Thursday “no theory can be ruled out” in the missing EgyptAir flight.

“No theory can be ruled out on the cause of this disappearance,” said Valls, speaking after the plane vanished from radar over the Mediterranean with 66 people on board.

Plane made sudden swerves, plunged: Greek def min

An EgyptAir airliner which went missing had made ‘sudden swerves’ mid-air and plunged before dropping off radars in the southern Mediterranean, Greece’s defence minister said.

“At 3:39am the course of the aircraft was south and south-east of Kassos and Karpathos (islands)..immediately after it entered Cairo FIR and made swerves and a descent I describe; 90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right,” Defence Minister Panos Kammenos told a news conference. Greek authorities had mounted a search in the area south of the island of Karpathos without result so far, he said.

An EgyptAir flight from Alexandria to Cairo was hijacked in March and forced to divert to Cyprus, where the “unstable” hijacker demanded to see his ex-wife.

He surrendered after a six-hour airport standoff, which ended peacefully.

In October, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for bombing a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, killing all 224 people on board.

The disappearance of the jet on Thursday comes more than two years after the start of one of the most enduring mysteries in aviation history.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 vanished on March 8, 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew onboard, mostly Chinese and Malaysians.

Authorities believe the Boeing 777 detoured to the remote southern Indian Ocean and then plunged into the water.

The costly, painstaking search for a crash site has yet to yield results, but five pieces of debris have been identified as either definitely or probably from the jet, all found thousands of kilometres from the search zone, likely swept there by ocean currents.

Theories to explain the disappearance include a possible mechanical or structural failure, a hijacking or terror plot, or rogue pilot action.

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