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Flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf
 

Aircraft crashes in French Alps: 150 dead

Most passengers were German tourists coming back from holidays in Spain. French President Hollande said that there are probably no survivors. Black box has been found.

FUENTES Agencies AUTOR 5/Evangelical_Focus PARIS 24 DE MARZO DE 2015 12:55 h
A helicopter hovers above the mountains, on which can be seen countless small pieces of debris / Matrixpictures.co.uk

An Airbus A320 airliner has crashed in the French Alps between Barcelonnette and Digne, in southern France, close to the mountains.The location of the crash is making access difficult and conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next 12 hours because of a storm coming into the region, which will produce rain and high-elevation snow.



Bernard Cazeneuve, French Interior Minister, said one of the black boxes has been located at the site in the French Alps where the plane crashed, Associated Press reports.



He hoped it  would ultimately help in the investigation into the cause of the crash.



 



An aircraft of German Wings, similar to the one which has crashed. /



 



The aeroplane left Barcelona at 09:55 am and the destination was Dusseldorf. There were 144 passengers on board, including two babies and six crew members. Contact between the plane and French air traffic controllers broke off at 10:53 at an altitude of approx 6,000ft (1800 meters), and the descent lasted eight minutes.



The aircraft was 24 years old, and it belonged to Lufthansa, the parent company of Germanwings, in 1991. Its last routine check and inspection took place on 23 March in Düsseldorf. Besides, the captain had more than 10 years’ flying experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, and had recorded more than 6,000 hours’ flying time.



 



DISTRESS CALL



Thomas Winkelmann, chief executive of Germanwings, said at press conference that on the question of whether a distress call was made from the aircraft, the airline has received conflicting reports.



“We have contradictory information about that ourselves, from the air traffic controllers, and we are uncertain as to whether a distress call was issued at all”, he explained. “It is very important that we do not engage in speculation. We need to get to the bottom of what happened as quickly as possible”, he added.



The executive  chief  of Germanwings confirmed that once this information can be verified, there will be another press conference.



 



FlightRadar application shows the itinerary of the flight / Twitter



 



Reuters has spoken to the French aviation regulator, which seemed to have contributed to the uncertainty:



Germanwings jetliner that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday did not issue a distress call during its rapid descent , France’s aviation regulator said.



“The aircraft did not itself make a distress call but it was the combination of the loss of radio contact and the aircraft’s descent which led the controller to implement the distress phase”, a spokesman for the DGAC authority said.



Winkelmann also declared that the company had no clear indication of why the pilots initiated the sharp, eight-minute descent, adding that there were “no irregular aspects” with the plane.



 



PROBABLY NO SURVIVORS



Just after the accident, French President Francois Hollande informed that: "The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors.”



Afterwards, at the Germanwing press conference, Thomas Winkelmann said that information about the nationalities of the casualties will only be announced when the airline feels it can do so “without any shred of doubt”. He adds that information will not be given out until all family members have been informed.



According to AENA, it is believed that there are 67 Germans, 47 Spaniards, 2 Argentineans, 2 Australians, an American, a Moroccan, a Colombian, a Mexican and a Belgian among the victims.



Bodo Klimpel, mayor of the German city of Haltern, has confirmed that 16 students and two teachers from the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium high school in the town were on board the flight, returning from a week-long Spanish exchange trip.



Many of the families knew what happened from the media, said Klimpel. The head of the school immediately suspended school after they learned the plane had crashed. He added that the school would open tomorrow.



 



French emergency services workers gather in Seyne / Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images



 



POLITICAL REACTIONS



French President Francois Hollande, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Spain's King Felipe and his wife Queen Letizia have organized a crisis meeting at the Interior Ministry in Paris.



 



Crisis meeting / Getty images



 



The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has expressed her sorrow about the news: “This is a time and an hour of great sorrow and great grief. We should be thinking about people who have lost relatives and also friends”.



Merkel will visit the site of the crash tomorrow. Her foreign minister and transport minister are already en route.



Just hours into his state visit to France, Spain’s King Felipe VI cancelled his state visit to France. Spain’s President Mariano Rajoy also talked to the press. “We are facing a dramatic and very sad accident,” he stated. “We are going to do everything in our power to help, to help the families and give them our support”, Rajoy concluded. He will also visit the crash site tomorow.



“Our thoughts and our prayers are with our friends in Europe”, President Barack Obama said, offering his condolences to those with family and friends on board the flight.



“Germany and Spain are among our closest allies,” he added, and “Our message to them is as a steadfast friend and ally, America stands with them at this moment of sorrow.”



DIFFICULT ACCESS TO THE CRASH SITE



French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet told the Associated Press that crash debris from the budget carrier Germanwings was spread across an area at about 2000 meters altitude.



Snow and lack of roads hampered efforts to reach the site in the foothills of the Alps.



 



Helicopters of the French air force in Seyne /Boris Horvat/AFP/Getty Images



 



“It is going to take days to recover the victims, then the debris”, senior police officer Jean-Paul Bloy informed..



French Prime Minister Manuel Valls confirmed early this afternoon that a helicopter has landed near the crash site and reported no evidence of survivors. A local politician, Gilbert Sauvan, was quoted by Les Echos newspaper, saying the plane “disintegrated.”


 

 


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