Crashed Russian plane 'split in two'

2015-10-31 13:16
People gather at the information desk of the Russian airline Kogalymavia at the Pulkovo airport in St.Petersburg to hear the plight of their family members and friends. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

People gather at the information desk of the Russian airline Kogalymavia at the Pulkovo airport in St.Petersburg to hear the plight of their family members and friends. (Dmitry Lovetsky, AP)

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Cairo - A Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Saturday, the Egyptian civil aviation authority said, and a security officer who arrived at the scene said most of the passengers appeared to have been killed.

The Airbus A 321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the aviation ministry said.

- Read more: Debris found after plane crash 

The security officer at the scene told Reuters by telephone that search and rescue teams heard voices in a section of the plane.

"I now see a tragic scene. A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats," the officer, who requested anonymity, said.

"The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside."

Insurgency

Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants who support Islamic State. The rebels have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.

Russia launched air raids against Syrian opposition groups including Islamic State on Sept. 30. Civil Aviation Minister Mohamed Hossam Kemal was quoted in a cabinet statement as saying it was too soon to determine the cause of the crash, but security sources said there was no indication the Airbus had been shot down or blown up.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was heading to the crash site with several cabinet ministers on a private jet, the tourism ministry said.

Russian television showed film of anxious relatives and friends waiting for information at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport.

The A321 is a 185-seat medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1 100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.

Saturday's crash is the second fatal accident involving this variant of the A320 jetliner family, according to data from the Flight Safety Foundation.

Airbus said it had no independent information on the crash and declined to comment on the aircraft involved.

Rapid descent

The aircraft took off at 05:51 Cairo time (03:51 GMT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31 000 feet (9 400 metres) when it vanished from radar screens.

Accidents at cruising altitude are one of the rarest categories of accidents but also among the most deadly, accounting for 13% of fatal accidents but 27% of fatalities since 2005, according to Boeing.

According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6 000 feet (2 000 metres) per minute before the signal was lost.

The aircraft cited in tracking reports had two engines from the International Aero Engines consortium, which includes United Technologies unit Pratt & Whitney and Germany's MTU Aero Engines

After delays caused by poor weather conditions, Egyptian search and rescue teams located the site of the crash in the Hassana area 35km south of the Sinai Mediterranean coastal city of Al Arish, the aviation ministry statement said.



Read more on:    russia  |  egypt  |  north africa  |  air crashes  |  aviation

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