None of the 150 people on board the Germanwings flight that crashed in the southern Alps survived, French police say, adding it will take days to recover bodies.
Above: reported to be the first image of the Germanwings flight crash site.
The Airbus A320, operated by Germanwings, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, crashed near Digne les Bains in the mountainous Alpes-des-Hautes province on Tuesday morning.
Senior police officer Jean-Paul Bloy, at the crash site, said: “It is going to take days to recover the victims, then the debris.”
He added that there are currently no theories as to why the flight crashed.
“There were 148 people on board,” President Hollande said earlier. “The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors.”
He added: “The accident happened in a zone that is particularly hard to access.”
The plane took off from Barcelona at around 8:55am (UTC) heading for Dusseldorf. The plane climbed to 38,000 feet, the cruising height but stayed there for just one minute and. at 9:31am as it passed Marseilles, began to descend.
The plane descended at a rate of 3,000 ft to 4,000 ft per minute – standard for a plane if it was coming in to land – before disappearing from radar at 6,800 feet. At this point, ay 9:41 am, the plane was near the village of Prads-Haute-Bleone in the Alps.
Germanwings said the plane, which was delivered to Lufthansa in 1991, fell into a steep descent for eight minutes. The company added that the pilot had ten years experience with lufthansa and Germanwings and that the plane had been checked by technicians on Monday.
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) March 24, 2015
The jetliner did not issue a distress call during its rapid descent, France’s aviation regulator said.
“The aircraft did not itself make a distress call but it was the combination of the loss of radio contact and the aircraft’s descent which led the controller to implement the distress phase,” a spokesman for the DGAC authority said.
The “distress” phase is the third and most serious of three stages of alerts used to help coordinate rescue efforts when an aircraft is considered in difficulty.
A helicopter is said to have arrived near the crash site, and reported that the plane has “disintegrated”, with the largest piece of debris the size of a car.
A spokeswoman for the German town Haltern said there is reason to believe that there were 16 schoolchildren and two teachers from the town on the plane – but that this cannot be confirmed.
At a press conference Germanwings also said that two babies were on board.
Though President Hollande said there were 148 people on board, Germanwings has since tweeted that in total there qwere 150 – 144 passengers, two pilots and four members of cabin crew.
Germanwings said it currently believes 67 passengers were German, though this number could change. Spain’s deputy prime minister said that 45 people on the flight are believed to be Spanish.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said he had activated the ministerial crisis cell to help coordinate the aftermath of the crash. He added that he had sent Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to the site of the incident.
Germany said it was sending air safety experts and its transport minister to the site of the plane crash.
“In these difficult hours our thoughts are with all those who must fear their relatives are among the passengers or crew members,” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.
The Spanish government said it had set up a crisis cabinet to deal with the crash.
Access to the crash site is “very difficult”, Mayor of Digne Patricia Granet Brunello has said, because weather conditions are very poor.
On Tuesday afternoon French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the plane’s black box had been found.
Germanwings, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, said it could not give reasons for the crash yet, and would hold a press conference at 2pm (GMT). It added that its “thoughts and prayers” were with the “families and friends of the passengers and crew members”.
Carsten Spohr, Lufthansa chief executive, said: “This is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors.”
Lufthansa and Germanwings have darkened their logos following the crash.
INFO: We have recently become aware of media reports speculating on an incident though we still do not have any own confirmed information…
— Germanwings (@germanwings) March 24, 2015
… As soon as definite information is available, we shall inform the media immediately …
— Germanwings (@germanwings) March 24, 2015
We are aware of the media reports. All efforts are now going towards assessing the situation.
— Airbus (@Airbus) March 24, 2015