Egypt’s national airline has said an EgyptAir flight MS804, carrying 66 passengers and crew on a flight from Paris to Cairo disappeared from radar over the Mediterranean Sea.
The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two infants, and 10 crew, EgyptAir said. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, two Iraqis, and one each from the UK, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Canada.
EgyptAir reports on its Twitter account, that Flight 804, which departed Paris just after 11 p.m. from Charles de Gaulle Airport on Wednesday, disappeared at 2:45 a.m. Cairo time, shortly after it entered Egyptian airspace.
The plane, on its fifth journey of the day, was travelling at 37,000 feet when it disappeared from radar. EgyptAir later said the plane had emitted a signal at 4:26 am, two hours after the last radar contact, although it was not clear whether that was an emergency distress signal sent by a crew member or an automated signal from the plane’s onboard computers.
Egypt and Greece mounted a marine search-and-rescue operation early Thursday for the EgyptAir passenger jet. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the search was underway to find the missing Airbus A320 and it was too early to rule out any explanation for the incident, including terrorism.
Airline officials and the Egyptian civil aviation department believe the jet had crashed into the sea. Egypt Air said the plane sent an emergency signal – possibly from an emergency beacon attached to the plane – at 04:26 a.m., two hours after it disappeared from radar screens.
French President Francois Hollande’s office said, the French government held an emergency meeting at 06:30 GMT to discuss the plane’s disappearance.
It has however remained unclear whether the disappearance was due to technical failure or any other reason such as sabotage by ultra-hardline Islamists, who have targeted airports, airliners and tourist sites in Europe, Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle Eastern countries over the past few years.
This is not the first air-safety crisis Egypt has faced recently. In March, a domestic EgyptAir flight was hijacked and forced to land in Cyprus.