Tue, June 02, 2009
World > Europe > Air France jet missing

Air France jet with 9 Chinese crashes into sea

2009-06-02 00:42:03 GMT2009-06-02 08:42:03 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

Relatives of passengers of the Air France flight 447 are pictured through a glass door as they react at the Tom Jobim Airport in Rio de Janeiro, Monday, June 1, 2009. Air France flight 447carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris ran into a towering wall of thunderstorms and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told families of those aboard Monday that 'prospects of finding survivors are very small.' (AP Photo)

Isabelle Birem, Air France's general director in Brazil, speaks during a press conference, in Sao Paulo, Monday, June 1, 2009. Air France flight 447, carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, ran into a towering wall of thunderstorms and disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean. French President Nicolas Sarkozy told families of those aboard Monday that 'prospects of finding survivors are very small.' (AP Photo)

Passengers wait at the Air France check-in counter at the Tom Jobim International airport in Rio de Janeiro June 1, 2009. (AP Photo)

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy speaks at the crisis center at Charles de Gaulle airport near Paris June 1, 2009. An Air France plane with 228 people on board was presumed to have crashed into the Atlantic Ocean on Monday after hitting heavy turbulence during a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. (AP Photo)

An Air France jet carrying 228 people on a Rio de Janeiro-Paris flight went missing over the Atlantic amid mounting fears it had crashed into the ocean. (AFP Photo)

Nine Chinese nationals were among the 228 people on board an Air France passenger plane which is presumed to have crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, the airline company said Monday.

Air France identified the nationalities of the victims as two Americans, an Argentinean, an Austrian, a Belgian, 58 Brazilians, five British, a Canadian, nine Chinese, a Croatian, a Dane, a Dutch, an Estonian, a Filipino, 61 French, a Gambian, 26 Germans, four Hungarians, three Irish, one Icelandic, nine Italians, five Lebanese, two Moroccans, three Norwegians, two Polish, one Romanian, one Russian, three Slovakian, two Spanish, one Swedish, six Swiss and one Turk.

Previous reports said eight Chinese were aboard. Of the eight, one was seeking investment immigrant status in Brazil, one was an employee of China's Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, and six were with Benxi Iron & Steel Company based in Liaoning Province.

Air France said the Airbus, from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, flew into stormy weather four hours after take-off from Brazil and soon afterwards sent an automatic message reporting electrical faults.

The airline offered its condolences to the families of the passengers, making clear it did not expect to find survivors.

Air France spokesman said several of the plane's mechanisms had malfunctioned.

"It is probably a combination of circumstances that could have led to the crash," he said, adding that the airliner might have been hit by lightning.

Aviation experts said lightning strikes on planes were common and were not enough alone to explain a disaster.

The Brazilian air force said the plane was far out over the sea when it went missing.

Military planes took off from the island of Fernando de Noronha off Brazil's northeast coast to look for it and the Brazilian navy sent three ships to help in the search.

France sent one of its air force planes from west Africa.

Flight AF 447 left Rio de Janeiro on Sunday at 7 pm (6 am, Beijing time) and had been expected to land at Paris's Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport Monday 11:15 am (5:15 pm, Beijing time).

On its flight northeast from Rio, the jetliner would have had to pass through a notorious storm patch shifting around the equator known as the Intertropical Convergence Zone.

"It is a zone in the tropics where you can have particularly deep thunder clouds," said Barry Gromett, a meteorologist at the London Weather Centre.

The carrier said 216 passengers were on board, including seven children and one baby, as well as 12 crew members.

French tire company Michelin said the head of its Latin American operations, Luis Roberto Anastacio, had been on the flight.

Tearful relatives and friends were led away by airport staff after they arrived at Roissy expecting to greet the passengers.

Senior French government minister Jean-Louis Borloo ruled out the possibility of a hijacking.

"It's an awful tragedy," he told France Info radio.

If no survivors are found it will be the worst loss of life involving an Air France plane in the firm's 75-year history.

The plane was an Airbus 330-200 powered with General Electric engines.

If the plane is confirmed to have crashed, it would be the first time an A330 has been lost during an operational airline flight.

The last major incident involving an Air France plane was in July 2000 when one of its Concorde supersonic airliners crashed just after taking off from Paris, bound for New York.

All 109 people on board were killed along with at least four on the ground.

Reuters-China Daily

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