Cairo: 224 killed as Russian airliner crashes in Egypt

Cairo (AFP & NYT): A Russian passenger plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, killing everyone on board, officials here said.

The Islamic State (IS) group affiliate in Egypt claimed it downed the plane, without saying how, but an Egyptian security official said the plane did not crash because of an attack. Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said the IS claim “cannot be considered accurate”.

The Airbus A321 with 214 Russian and three Ukranian passengers and seven crew, had taken off at 5:51 am (8:21 am IST) from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in south Sinai bound for St Petersburg. It lost contact with air traffic control 23 minutes later.

Egyptian security and medical officials said there were no survivors and that bodies and debris were spread over around five square kilometres (two square miles). The wreckage was found roughly 100 km south of the North Sinai town of El-Arish, Egyptian officials said.

The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin has ordered dispatch of rescue teams to Egypt. Russia’s Emergency Ministry published a list of names of the passengers, ranging in age from a 10-month-old girl to a 77-year-old woman.

A senior Egyptian aviation official said the charter flight was flying at 30,000 feet when communication was lost. At St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport, family members awaited news.

The pilot had radioed that he had technical problems and needed to make an emergency landing, press reports in Egypt quoted officials there as saying.

The plane had apparently been trying to land at the airport at Al-Arish, in northern Sinai, when it crashed in the Hasana region, a mountainous area south of the city.“I am meeting my parents,” said 25-year-old Ella Smirnova.

“I spoke to them last on the phone when they were already on the plane, and then I heard the news….I will keep hoping until the end that they are alive, but perhaps I will never see them again,” she said.

A senior Egyptian air traffic control official said the pilot told him in their last communication that he had radio trouble.

Russian aviation official Sergei Izvolsky told Interfax news agency that the plane did not make contact as expected with Cyprus air traffic control.

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