German Airbus A320 plane crashes in French Alps
All 150 passengers and crew on an Airbus A320 flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf are believed dead after it rapidly lost height and began an as yet unexplained descent into a remote and mountainous area of southern France.
The chief executive of Lufthansa’s lowcost arm, Germanwings, said the aircraft reached its cruising height of 38,000ft at 10.45am, 44 minutes into the flight, and began the descent just a minute or two later. Contact was lost at 10.53am when the plane was at 6,000ft.
The dead are believed to include 45 Spanish and 67 German nationals. A school party of 16 German teenagers returning from an exchange trip to Spain were booked on the plane but school officials could not say if the group had boarded.
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said she would travel to the crash site on Wednesday, said the crash had plunged Germany, France and Spain into “deep mourning”.
Spain’s King Felipe VI said he was cancelling his state visit to France to return to Spain. The country’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, also spoke briefly to the press. “We’re facing a dramatic and very sad accident,” he said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to help, to help the families and give them our support.”
The French weather station said the meteorogical conditions were calm at the time of the accident and that the sky was “completely clear”, with almost no wind.
The Airbus A320 crashed in the commune of Méolans-Revel, an isolated area of small villages and hamlets that are difficult to reach. Debris is scattered over an area of 2 sq km, according to French search and rescue.
Sebastien Giroux, one of the first eyewitnesses, said he saw the aircraft flying very low. “There was no smoke or particular sound or sign of anything wrong, but at the altitude it was flying it was clearly not going to make it over the mountains,” he told BFM-TV. “I didn’t see anthing wrong with the plane, but it was too low.”
Initial reports said a distress call was made by the pilots at 10.47am but French authorities later said this was not the case.
Pierre-Henry Brandet, a French interior ministry spokesman, told BFM television that he expected “an extremely long and extremely difficult” operation because of the area’s remoteness.
“The aircraft debris has been localised, and we can only fear a heavy death toll. The first information from rescuers suggests that the number of survivors, if there are any, will be low, but until we have reached the site by land, we cannot say with any certitude. The rescuers are being taken in by helicopter,” Brandet said.
Gilles Gravier, president of Tourism in the Val d’Allos ski resort area, said nothing of the crash had been heard from the pistes in his village. He said 400 gendarmes, firefighters and emergency search and rescue personnel had been mobilised but the zone was “extremely difficult” to get to.
Florent Plazy, director of the local ski school ESF, said the area was hard to access even for mountain walkers. Eric Ciotti, head of the regional council, said search and rescue teams were headed to the crash site.
The French president, François Hollande, said it was likely there were no survivors.
At Düsseldorf Airport, where the Germanwings plane was expected to arrive earlier today, the relatives of those who were on the flight have been taken into a separate area where they are being taken care of, according to the German broadcaster ARD.
Airport care teams are waiting for other family members to arrive. Flights are continuing from the airport as normal, although it is said to be a “difficult situation” for those boarding.
Spain’s airport operator, Aena, said the plane left Barcelona at 8.55am, a slight delay from its expected departure of 8.35am. It did not know the reason for the delay. It said it had designated a special room in terminals 1 and 2 of Barcelona’s El Prat airport for family members and media.
Airbus said on Twitter: “We are aware of the media reports. All efforts are now going towards assessing the situation. We will provide further information as soon as available.”
The crashed A320 was 24 years old and had been with the parent Lufthansa group since 1991, according to the online database airfleets.net. German Airbus A320 plane crashes in French Alps | World news | The Guardian
Unlucky....... and RIP
EDIT someone beat me to it.