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No survivors as passenger plane with 224 aboard crashes

By The Rainbow

There were no survivors among the 224 people aboard a Russian airliner that crashed early Saturday in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula shortly after takeoff from a Red Sea resort town, according to Egyptian officials.

The Metrojet flight, carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members, was en route from Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt to St. Petersburg when it dropped off radar screens 23 minutes into the flight.

The Russian state-run news agency RIA reported  initially that emergency workers heard some voices at the crash site, but the Associated Press quoted Egyptian officials later as saying there were no survivors.

Airport authorities said all 224 people aboard Metrojet Flight 7K9268 were Russian, the Russian news agency RIA reports . The passengers included 17 children, aged 2 to 17, according to Russian authorities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has issued a statement expressing his condolences to the families of the victims and declared a day of mourning. A team of Russian investigators was sent immediately to Egypt, according to Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, RIA reports.

There was no other immediate word on the cause of the crash, although the Egyptian government ruled out the possibility that it could have been shot down.

An Egyptian aviation official says the pilot of the Airbus A-3221 had reported technical difficulties before losing contact with air traffic controllers. Ayman al-Muqadem, a member of the Aviation Incidents Committee, said the pilot had reported his intention to attempt to land at the nearest airport.

The area in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula where a Russian passenger plane with at least 200 people on board crashed on Oct. 31.  (Photo: Mapbox)

An unidentified source in Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency told RIA that the plane took off from Sharm El-Sheikh, a popular Red Sea resort, at 3:31 GMT and disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar screens 23 minutes later after reaching an altitude of 31,000 feet.

Flight Radar 24, a flight tracking service, said the plane was descending at 6,000 feet per minute when it went off radar.

The plane reportedly broke into two pieces, indicating the pilot may have tried to make a controlled landing.

“The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside,” an unidentified Egyptian official told the Reuters news agency.

“I now see a tragic scene. A lot of dead on the ground and many died while strapped to their seats,” the official said. Dozens of ambulances were scrambled to the crash site.

Relatives of passengers of MetroJet Airbus A321 wait at Pulkovo II international airport in St. Petersburg, Russia, on Oct. 31, 2015.  (Photo: Anatoly Maltsez, epa)

The Sinai is a sparsely populated and rugged desert region sandwiched between the southern Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

Sharm el-Sheikh is a resort city known for its sandy beaches. It is a popular destination for divers. But the mountainous area away from the coast harbors Islamist insurgent groups who have staged numerous attacks in the peninsula and in Cairo.

Charlie Winter, a London-based extremism researcher at Quilliam, said on Twitter that any militants operating in the region where the plane went down would not have had weapons capable of hitting the plane at its projected altitude.

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