Germanwings Airbus A320 downed in France: First images emerge from crash site in Alps

All 150 people on board the flight are feared dead

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French authorities are preparing to launch a large search and rescue mission to the crash site of the downed Germanwings flight in southern France, though no survivors are expected to be found.

The Airbus A320 bound for Dusseldorf from Barcelona crashed into the Alps at around 10.47am local time on Tuesday morning, in what President Francis Hollande called “a tragedy on our soil”.

The plane crashed at an altitude of about 6,500ft in a mountainous area 100 miles north of Nice, according to French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet, and he said the remote location will make for “an extremely long and extremely difficult” search. The first images of the crash site at Meolans-Revel have started to emerge, but show little more than a snowy stretch of the Alpine range.

A320-germanwings_12.jpgLocal officials and mountain guides said the snow was “very deep” where the plane crashed, and that the area suffers regular avalanches that will hamper any recovery effort.

Alain Vidalies, the French transport minister, confirmed that no rescue workers have yet reached the site on foot, but that helicopters had flown over and seen bodies around the debris.

Spain's King Felipe VI, who was in France on a state visit, said he would be cutting the trip short to return to Madrid in anticipation of a prolonged search effort. “We know it was in an area where access is extremely difficult and that the search will be complicated,” he said.