Britons may be on missing plane, says Brown

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The Independent Online

British citizens may have been on board the Air France airliner which disappeared near Brazil this morning, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said today.

As a search continued for the airliner which went missing over the Atlantic with more than 200 people aboard, it was revealed today that the plane had an electrical problem.

Air France said it received a message in the early hours from the Airbus A330 aircraft, saying it had "crossed through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence".

It added that a message was received "signalling electrical circuit malfunction" on the plane, which was flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

The search for the plane - AF447, with 216 passengers and 12 crew abroad - was being carried out by the Brazilian air force.

Mr Brown told Sky News: "I have been in touch with the Foreign Office. This is a flight from Brazil to Paris and there hasn't been contact with that plane for some time.

"I do fear that there may be some British citizens on board. We are doing all the checking that is necessary."

The aircraft - with one baby and seven other children among the passengers - took off from Rio at around 10pm UK time yesterday and was due to land at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris at around 10.15am UK time today.

Contact with the plane was lost at around 3.20am UK time.

Brazilian planes searching for the missing aircraft took off from Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago of more than 20 islands about 220 miles off the coast of Brazil.

French minister Jean-Louis Borloo said the plane had probably had an accident and ruled out hijacking.

He said: "By now it would be beyond its kerosene reserves so unfortunately we must now envisage the most tragic scenario."

With French president Nicolas Sarkozy expressing his concern at the incident, Air France spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said: "We share the emotion and worry of the families concerned."

She added that the airline set up an information centre at Charles de Gaulle airport for the families of those aboard.