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Russian passenger plane crashes in Sinai

October 31, 2015

Egypt's Prime Minister says a Russian jetliner has crashed in central Sinai. The Airbus A-321 was carrying 224 passengers and crew.

Airbus A321 operated by Kogalymavia airlines
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/M. Lystseva

Reports say the plane disappeared from radar screens just after 6am local time (0400 GMT) on Saturday.

The Airbus A-321 had taken off just minutes earlier from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, headed for St Petersburg in Russia. The jetliner went down in a mountainous area of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of the northern Sinai town of El-Arish.

Metrojet flight 7K9268 was carrying 217 passengers - 17 of them children - and seven crew members, according to RIA news agency. Most of those on board were Russian tourists. Egyptian security officials said there were no survivors.

Confirmation of the crash was issued by the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Ismail Sharif. It said a cabinet-level crisis committee had been formed to deal with the tragedy.

Earlier, there had been confusion over whether the plane had gone missing over Egyptian, Cypriot or Turkish airspace.

Egyptian state television said Prime Minister Ismail Sharif was headed to the Sinai crash site.

Sudden descent

Metrojet flights are operated by Russian carrier Kogalymavia.

The flight tracker service FlightRadar24 provided data showing the plane descending rapidly from cruise altitude at a rate of about 1,800 meters per minute (6,000 feet) before radar contact was lost.

FlightRadar24 data shows flight 7K9268 was in the air for barely 23 minutes.

Initial confusion

Egyptian officials said initially that the pilot had radioed that the aircraft was experiencing technical problems and that he would attempt to land at the nearest airport.

But within half an hour of that announcement, the Egyptian aviation ministry said searchers had found debris.

Egyptian security sources told Reuters there were no early indications that the plane had been shot down or blown up. The news agency quoted a security officer at the scene saying that the aircraft was completely destroyed and that most aboard have died.

Reuters later cited several members of the search and rescue crew as saying they had heard voices in a section of the crashed plane.

Egypt's prosecutor general ordered an investigation into the tragedy.

Neighbor Israel provided aerial surveillance to help locate the crashed aircraft, according to an Israeli military statement.

St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport
Relatives await news of their loved ones at St Petersburg's Pulkovo airportImage: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Demianchuk

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his deepest condolences to the victims' families and ordered government ministries to offer immediate assistance to the relatives of those killed, Russian news agencies reported.

Meanwhile, Russia's top investigative committee has launched an case against the airline under an article "violation of rules of flights and preparations for them," Russian news agencies reported.

The north of the Sinai Peninsula has been the scene of nearly two years of an Islamist insurgency, which has left scores of people dead, including Egyptian army and police officers.

mm/ng (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)