‘No survivors’ as Russian plane crashes in Egypt’s Sinai
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A Russian airliner crashed on Saturday in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board, Egyptian and Russian authorities have confirmed.
Rescue teams located the wreckage in the Hassana area, south of Arish, and ambulances were rushed to the scene.
Officials investigating the crash site said they located the plane’s “black box” recorders but that there were no survivors.
Search and rescue team members are still gathering the remains of victims, medical sources said.
The charter flight was operated by Russian company Kogalymavia – also known as Kolavia – and had on board 217 passengers, including 17 children, and seven crew members.
Russian and Egyptian officials are yet to confirm the passengers' identities, but most are believed to be Russian tourists.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Nov. 1 a national day of mourning and ordered an investigation into the crash.
There was no official word on the cause of the crash.
Egyptian air traffic control lost contact with the airliner shortly after it took off at 3.51am GMT.
The aircraft reportedly failed to make scheduled contact with Cyprus air traffic control 23 minutes after take-off and disappeared from the radar.
Egypt's civilian aviation ministry said the plane had been at an altitude of 9,500 metres (31,000 feet) when it vanished.
According to FlightRadar24, an authoritative Sweden-based flight tracking service, the aircraft was descending rapidly at about 2,000 metres (6,000 feet) per minute before the signal was lost.
Egyptian officials say the pilot had reported technical difficulties and wanted to make an emergency landing before losing contact with air traffic controllers.
Adel Mahgoub, chairman of the state company that runs Egypt's civilian airports, said the plane had successfully undergone technical checks at Sharm el-Sheikh's airport before taking off.
Egypt’s top prosecutor has ordered the formation of a team of prosecutors tasked with going to the site of the crash and investigating the debris.
Islamist insurgents are active in parts of Sinai, but security sources say there is no indication that the plane might have been shot down.
Airline offices searched
Egyptian investigators will be joined by a Russian team sent from Moscow and headed by Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov.
In Russia, television showed footage of anxious relatives and friends waiting for information at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport.
President Putin has ordered government ministries to offer immediate assistance to relatives of those killed, the Kremlin press office said.
Russia's state transport regulator, Rostransnadzor, is to conduct checks into whether Kogalymavia observed flight safety rules, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
State-run television station Rossiya 24 reported that officials were searching the airline's offices in Moscow and had seized some documents.
Kogalymavia is a small regional carrier that flies mostly international charter services.
Russia has a poor air safety record, with charter operators often under pressure to book to capacity on ageing jets in a bid to cut costs.
(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP, REUTERS)