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Rediff.com  » News » Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

June 2, 2009 10:49 IST

Image: Undated file photo of an Airbus A330-200 similar to the Air France plane which vanished from radar
Photographs: Reuters/HO/Airbus Industries

An Air France plane with 228 people on board, which was traveling from Brazil to France, crashed into the Atlantic on Monday following a lightning strike.

The jet probably crahsed into the Atlantic Ocean after it entered an area of strong turbulence, Air France CEO Pierre-Henri Gourgeonhe said on Monday.

 

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Distraught relatives and friends of passengers of Air France flight AF447 arrive at crisis centre at Charles de Gaulle airport
Photographs: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

"The most likely thing is that the plane was hit by lightning. The plane was in a stormy area with strong turbulence, which provoked problems," Francois Brouse, Air France's director of communications, said.

Flight AF 447 had 216 passengers and 12 crew members on board, including three pilots. The passengers included one infant, seven children, 82 women and 126 men.

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Distraught relatives and friends of passengers of flight AF447 arrive at the crisis centre
Photographs: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

According to the CNN, Brazil launched two air force squadrons to hunt for the wreckage near the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha in the Atlantic Ocean, 365 kilometers (226 miles) from its coast, although the plane vanished outside the country's radar coverage.

The passengers on board the flight inluded two Americans, an Argentinean, an Austrian, a Belgian, 58 Brazilians, five British, a Canadian, nine Chinese, a Croatian, a Dane, a Dutch, an Estonian, a Filipino, 61 French, a Gambian, 26 Germans, four Hungarians, three Irish, one Icelandic, nine Italians, five Lebanese, two Moroccans, three Norwegians, two Polish, one Romanian, one Russian, three Slovakian, two Spanish, one Swedish, six Swiss and one Turk, said the CNN.

 

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Journalists interview a relative of Air France flight AF447 passenger at the Tom Jobim International airport in Rio de Janeiro
Photographs: Sergio Moraes/Reuters

A crisis centre has been set up at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris to deal with anxious relatives and friends waiting for news of passengers. Air France has also set up a hotline: 0800 800 812 in France, or +33 157021055 for international callers.

The Airbus A330 was closer to Brazil than to Africa when it crashed, authorities told CNN.

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: A man looks up at an arrival information sign at terminal 2E at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris as it advises a 'delayed' status for flight AF447
Photographs: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

There were 12 flight crew members: 3 pilots and 9 flight attendants. The flight captain had a record of 11,000 flight hours and had already flown 1,700 hours on Airbus A330/A340s. Of the two first officers, one had flown 3,000 flight hours (800 of which on the Airbus A330/A340) and the other 6,600 (2,600 on the Airbus A330/A340).

The ill fated twin-engined, long haul A330-200 jet was delivered to Air France in 2005 and has racked up around 18,800 flying hours on some 2,500 flights since.

 

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Worried relative of one of the Air France passengers awaits updates from authorities
Bruno Domingos/Reuters

CNN quoted French President Nicolas Sarkozy as saying that the chances of finding any survivors were 'very low'. Sarkozy, who met the relatives of the missing at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport, said, "This is a catastrophe the likes of which Air France has never seen before."

Meanwhile, a pilot from a Brazilian airline reportedly spotted burning pieces of wreckage on the Atlantic Ocean on Monday morning.

 

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Relatives and friends of Air France flight AF447 passengers at Windsor Hotel
Photographs: Bruno Domingos/Reuters

According to the Brazilian Air Force, the pilot saw 'orange-coloured spots' while crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The French government has sent ships and planes to the area where the crash is suspected to have taken place

 

Air France jet with 228 on board crashes

Image: Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, CEO of Air France-KLM arrives at the crisis centre
Photographs: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva talked to Sarkozy and France and Brazil are carrying out search operations together.