BREAKING: EgyptAir says plane carrying 66 has disappeared from radar
The Egyptair logo is seen at the arrivals section of Cairo International Airport, Egypt, Thursday, May 19, 2016. An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people disappeared from radar early Thursday morning, the airline said. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
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CAIRO: An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people disappeared from radar early Thursday morning, the airline said.

EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at 2:45 a.m. local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet, the airline said. It said the Airbus A320 had vanished 10 miles (16 kilometers) after it entered Egyptian airspace.

Egyptian armed forces were searching for the plane, which was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew. The pilot had 6,000 flight hours. Earlier, the airline said 69 people were on board.

EgyptAir later confirmed the nationalities of those on board as including 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, one Briton, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Algerian and one Canadian.

Egypt’s state-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying that the pilot did not send a distress call, and that the last contact with the plane was 10 minutes before it disappeared from radar. It did not identify the official.

Airbus is aware of the disappearance, but “we have no official information at this stage of the certitude of an accident,” the company’s spokesman Jacques Rocca said.

The Paris airport authority and the French civil aviation authority would not immediately comment.

Around 15 family members of passengers on board the missing flight have arrived at Cairo airport. Airport authorities brought doctors to the scene after several distressed family members collapsed.

Reporters gathered in front of the small, empty EgyptAir counter at Terminal 1 of Charles de Gaulle Airport. Airport staff said EgyptAir staff were on their way.

Neither France’s Foreign Ministry nor Interior Ministry would comment on the disappearance or on whether it could have been an attack.

France remains under a state of emergency after Islamic extremist attacks killed 130 people in November. The Islamic State group continues to threaten France.

The plane most likely crashed into the sea, Ihab Raslan, a spokesman for the Egyptian civil aviation authority, said according to a report by SkyNews Arabia. However, Raslan later told the Associated Press that it was too early to tell if the plane had crashed, and denied speaking to SkyNews Arabia.

Greece joined the search and rescue operation for the EgyptAir flight with two aircraft: one C-130 and one early warning aircraft, officials at the Hellenic National Defense General Staff said. They said one frigate was also heading to the area, and helicopters are on standby on the southern island of Karpathos for potential rescue or recovery operations.

An EgyptAir plane was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus in March. A man who admitted to the hijacking and is described by Cypriot authorities as “psychologically unstable” is in custody in Cyprus.

The incident renewed security concerns months after a Russian passenger plane was blown out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula. The Russian plane crashed in Sinai on Oct. 31, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow said it was brought down by an explosive device, and a local branch of the extremist Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for planting it.

In 1999, EgyptAir Flight 1990 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, killing all 217 people aboard, U.S. investigators filed a final report that concluded its co-pilot switched off the autopilot and pointed the Boeing 767 downward. But Egyptian officials rejected the notion of suicide altogether, insisting some mechanical reason caused the crash.

 

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