A Russian plane carrying more than 200 passengers from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh has crashed in central Sinai with most of those on board feared dead.
The jet, operated by the Russian company Kogalymavia and branded as Metrojet, was “completely destroyed with all on board likely to have died”, a security officer from the search and rescue team said.
But officers at the scene said the voices of trapped passengers could be heard from a section of the crashed plane. Destined for St Petersburg, it was carrying 224 people, including 17 children and seven crew members.
“There is a section of the plane with passengers inside that the rescue team is still trying to enter and we hope to find survivors, especially after hearing pained voices of people inside,” an anonymous officer told Reuters.
Egypt’s health ministry had dispatched 45 ambulances to the scene to “evacuate the dead and wounded” which could indicate the possibility of survivors, though this remains unconfirmed. At least five of the children on board are feared dead.
The crash site was found on Saturday morning in southern Arish, a mountainous area of central Sinai, but poor weather conditions were making it difficult for some rescue crews to reach the scene, the security officer said.
Northern Sinai is home to groups of Islamist militants, many affiliated to Islamic State, but there were no indications the plane was shot down, Egyptian security sources told Reuters.
A statement from the Egyptian prime minister’s office said Sherif Ismail had formed a cabinet-level crisis committee to deal with the crash, which was believed to have been caused by a mechanical failure.
The plane, which had a tail number of EI-ETJ, lost contact 23 minutes after takeoff while flying at more than 30,000 ft above sea level, according to the plane tracker website Flight Radar. It had begun to make a steep descent at a rate of 6,000 feet per minute shortly before communications were lost.
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