Cairo, May 19:
An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board on Thursday crashed into the Mediterranean Sea disappearing from radar barely 30 minutes before it was to land at its destination.
French President Francois Hollande confirmed the plane had crashed during a TV press conference in Paris, the Guardian reported.
“It is feared that this plane has crashed. The information that we have managed to gather confirm alas that this plane has crashed, and it has disappeared,” Hollande said.
The French president said “no hypothesis” could be ruled out on the causes of the crash.
He also offered help from France in the search for debris.
The Airbus A320 passenger airliner took off from Paris on Wednesday night at 11.09 p.m. and was expected to land in Cairo on Thursday morning at 3.15 a.m. It lost contact with the radar at 2.45 a.m.
Airbus, also in a statement, confirmed “the loss” of the 13-year-old aircraft.
However, authorities were still refusing to draw concrete conclusions on what had happened to the plane which carried 56 passengers — 30 Egyptians, 15 French nationals, two Iraqis, and one each from Britain, Belgium, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — and 10 crew members, BBC reported.
A major search and rescue operation was under way involving the Greek and Egyptian armed forces.
France has offered to send boats and planes to help in the effort.
EgyptAir said the plane was flying at 37,000ft when it disappeared from radar shortly after entering Egyptian airspace.
Greek aviation officials said its air traffic controllers had spoken to the pilot a few minutes earlier and everything had appeared normal.
The plane was believed to have gone down off the southern Greek island of Karpathos, although it was not confirmed yet.
There was also some confusion over whether a distress signal was sent out by the plane crew.
Egypt’s state-run daily al-Ahram quoted an EgyptAir statement as saying the Egyptian army’s rescue and search had received a distress call from the plane.
But Egypt’s military subsequently said that no such signal was received.
Flight tracking group Flightradar24 listed details of the plane’s earlier journey on Wednesday which showed it had flown from Asmara, in Eritrea, to Cairo, then on to Tunis, in Tunisia, before heading, via Cairo, to Paris.
Conditions were clear and calm when the plane crossed over the Mediterranean Sea, weather analysts said. (IANS)