A passenger plane flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf has crashed in a remote and mountainous area of southern France.
The Airbus A320 making the flight for Lufthansa’s lowcost arm, Germanwings, crashed near the small mountain village of Barcelonette in the southern Alps with at least 144 passengers and six crew members on board.
Spain’s deputy prime minister said 45 passengers were believed to be Spanish nationals. A spokesman for France’s interior ministry said the passenger manifest was being verified.
Flight 4U9525 disappeared off the radar at around 11.20am, Le Figaro reported. The plane dropped from 11,500 metres to 2,100 metres (38,000ft to 7,000ft) in nine minutes between 10.31am and 10.40am, air radar services said. Initial reports said a distress call was made by the pilots at 10.47am but French authorities later said this was not the case.
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.”
The plane crashed at 2,700 metres altitude in the Alps, 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.
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.
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.
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Pierre-Henry Brandet, an interior ministry spokesman, told BFM television that he expected “an extremely long and extremely difficult” operation because of the area’s remoteness.
Read more: theguardian.com