Germanwings A320 aircraft flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf goes down in southern French Alps with 148 on board.
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.
A distress call was made by the aircraft at 10.47am, while the plane was “in an abnormal situation”, the French transport ministry said. The crash happened shortly afterwards, it added.
The aircraft 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.
The distress call to air traffic control in Marseilles was “mayday, mayday, mayday” and the pilot requested an emergency descent, meaning all airspace had to be cleared below the route of the aircraft.
At least 142 passengers and six crew members were 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.
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.
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.
“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.
The French president, François Hollande, said it was likely there were no survivors.