An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 56 passengers and 10 crew crashed into the Mediterranean sea after disappearing from radar early Thursday morning, Egyptian aviation officials said.
The plane sent a distress signal before plunging into the sea some 280 kilometers (175 miles) from the Egyptian coast, officials said, as the Egyptian army began scanning the sea for remains of the craft.
The message was received at 0226 GMT, less than 10 minutes before the flight disappeared, an EgyptAir official told AFP. Airline officials had earlier said there was no distress signal.
In a tweet, the airline also said it had received a signal from an emergency beacon at 4:26 a.m., about two hours after the jet disappeared.
There was no immediate word on the cause of the crash, though fears immediately turned to terror in France and Egypt, which have both come under attack by Islamic State jihadists in the last year.
“No theory can be ruled out,” French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said, apparently referring to speculation the incident could be a terror attack amid Islamic State threats to both Egypt and France.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at 2:30 a.m. local time, the airline said. It was flying at 37,000 feet when it disappeared.
the passengers' nationalities are as follows:
– 15 French
– 30 Egyptian
– 1 British
– 1 Belgium
– 2 Iraqis
– 1 Kuwaiti
– 1 Saudi
— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) May 19, 2016
The plane was carrying was carrying 56 passengers, including one child and two babies, and 10 crew. The pilot had 6,000 flight hours.
The airline said aboard were 30 Egyptians, 15 French, people from a host of other countries, including Britain, Canada, Belgium, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Portugal.
The flight from Paris Charles de Gaulle to Cairo normally takes just over four hours and the plane was due to arrive at 3:05 am local time.
The airline said in a statement that Egyptian military search and rescue teams were combing the area where the jet might have gone down.
An EgyptAir official said the search was focused on an area of sea north of the Egyptian coast, without providing a precise location.
The Flightradar24 website said MS804 is an Airbus A320-232, and was delivered to the airline in 2003.
EGYPTAIR has contacted the concerned authorities and bodies and inspection is underway through the rescue teams.
— EGYPTAIR (@EGYPTAIR) May 19, 2016
The Paris airport authority and the French civil aviation authority would not immediately comment.
Both France and Egypt have been at the center of fights against the Islamic State.
France remains under a state of emergency after Islamic extremist attacks killed 130 people in November and the Islamic State group continues to threaten France.
Weeks earlier, a Russian passenger plane was blown out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board, in an attack claimed the Islamic State.
Egyptian forces have been battling an insurgency in the restive peninsula by IS-linked jihadists.
On Wednesday night, the Israeli army reportedly beefed up troops along the border as fighting in the peninsula heated up.
The air incident comes after an EgyptAir plane was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus in March. A man who admitted to the hijacking and is described by Cypriot authorities as “psychologically unstable” is in custody in Cyprus.
In 1999, EgyptAir Flight 1990 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, killing all 217 people aboard, US investigators filed a final report that concluded its co-pilot switched off the autopilot and pointed the Boeing 767 downward. But Egyptian officials rejected the notion of suicide altogether, insisting some mechanical reason caused the crash.