Russian airliner with 224 on board goes off radar over Egypt

Earlier on Saturday Egyptian air traffic control said they lost control with the Russian airliner en route from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, Sputnik News reports.

Egyptian prime minister said Saturday a Russian airliner crashed in the Sinai peninsula. According to a source in the Egyptian civil aviation authotity, a Metrojet/Kogalymavia A321 en route from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, crashed near Nekhel in the north of Sinai.

According to a security official at the scene, the Russian airliner is completely destroyed and all of its passengers are most probably dead. The plane went down in a mountainous area in central Sinai and poor weather conditions have made it difficult for rescue crews to get to the scene, the officer said. Survivors and bodies of those on board will be flown to Cairo, he told Reuters.

An Egyptian Health Ministry official told Ahram newspaper that 15 ambulances were sent to central Sinai’s Al-Hasana City, adding that an “emergency status” was declared.

A source in Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) told RIA Novosti the Kogalymavia Flight 9268 carrying 217 passengeers and 7 crew took off from Sharm El-Sheikh at 3:31 GMT and went off radar after 23 minutes of flight. Most of the passengers are said to be Russian tourists, including 17 children.

The Russian A321 captain informed air-traffic controller of technical faults after take-off and asked for route change, a source in the Sharm el-Sheikh airport told RIA Novosti.

MENA news agency reported that Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail canceled all his scheduled visits on Saturday because of the information of Russian plane crash. A statement from the prime minister’s office said Ismail had formed a cabinet level crisis committee to deal with the crash.

There were no indications that the Russian Airbus was shot down, Egyptian security sources said. Egypt’s North Sinai is home to a two-year-old Islamist insurgency and militants affiliated to Islamic State have killed hundreds of soldiers and police.

Initial reports about the fate of the airliner were conflicting, with the head of Egypt’s central air traffic accident authority saying the plane was safe.

“The… Russian airline had told us that the Russian plane we lost contact with is safe and that it has contacted Turkish air traffic control and is passing through Turkish skies now,” Ayman al-Muqaddam said in a statement.

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