141 feared dead in Red Sea jet crash

Plane took off from Blair family resort but officials play down fears of terrorism
Click to follow

A charter jet with 141 people aboard - most of them French tourists - crashed into the Red Sea today after taking off from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh,. Officials feared no-one had survived.

The Boeing 737 took off shortly before 5am local time (0300 GMT) and quickly disappeared from radar about seven miles south of the airport, said airport officials. The plane was reportedly bound for Cairo for a stopover before heading on to Paris after a crew change.

There was no distress call made, according to officials at Egypt's Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The crash happened amid a week of heightened concerns about terrorist threats from the air that have led to increased security and cancelled flights around the world.

But an initial statement from aviation ministry ruled out terrorism, calling the crash an "accident" that may have been caused by a mechanical problem. The ministry said no one was believed to have survived.

Officials said 135 passengers were aboard the jet operated by the private Egyptian company Air Flash en route to Cairo - 129 of them French and six Egyptians. There were six crew members aboard.

Rescue teams found the wreckage of the jet close to the coast. They were attempting to find survivors or bodies, according to an official quoted by the Egyptian news agency MENA.

Engineers from the national carrier Egyptair went to try to help determine what happened.

The weather was clear in Sharm el-Sheikh and other flights were taking off without incident, officials said.

Sharm el-Sheik is a popular Red Sea tourist resort that also frequently hosts major political and economic summits. Egypt has held several meetings on peace in the Middle East there, including one in which US President George Bush met regional leaders in June over the "road map" plan toward creating a Palestinian state.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair and his family have been holidaying in Sharm el-Sheikh over the festive period. Today a Downing Street spokesman stressed that they were safe and well and said: "The group has not been affected."

Local news media reported today that Mr Blair was to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the resort later today.

Comments