Brazil president still hoping

2009-06-02 07:34

San Salvador - Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Monday he held out hopes of survivors after an Air France plane disappeared over the Atlantic on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

"In truth, we always work on the hope that there are survivors," he told reporters during a visit to El Salvador.

"In any matter, we can see that the plane hasn't landed anywhere," he said.

Lula said Brazilian military aircraft and ships were searching the zone the plane was believed to have come down, but added: "It's getting dark and it's going to be very difficult to search at night."

The Air France plane, an Airbus 330 with 228 people on board, disappeared four hours into its 11-hour flight overnight after leaving from Rio late on Sunday.

Air France said it received a data message showing the plane's pressurisation and electric systems had failed, and suggested it was probably hit by lightning.

Experts, though, said lightning strikes were fairly common and usually could not bring down modern commercial aircraft by themselves.

Lula said he "deeply lamented" the accident. He said he presumed the aircraft had fallen into the ocean.

He said he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy had spoken via telephone earlier on Monday.

"I spoke with Sarkozy and really it was an exchange of condolences," he said.

He added: "We still don't know exactly what happened. We simply have a report that the plane had an electrical problem."