A Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula on Saturday, the Egyptian civil aviation authority said, and a security officer who arrived at the scene said most of the passengers appeared to have died.
The Airbus A 321, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia with registration number KGL-9268, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak, the aviation ministry said.
The security officer at the scene told Reuters by telephone that search and rescue teams heard voices in a section of the plane.
"I now see a tragic scene. A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats," the officer, who requested anonymity, said.
"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."
Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants who support Islamic State. The rebels have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.
Russia launched air raids against Syrian opposition groups including Islamic State on Sept. 30. But Egyptian security sources said there was no indication that the Airbus jet had been shot down or blown up.
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The A321 is a 185-seat medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1,100 in operation worldwide. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.
Saturday's crash is the second fatal accident involving this variant of the A320 jetliner family, according to data from the Flight Safety Foundation.
Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was heading to the crash site with several cabinet ministers on a private jet, the tourism ministry said.
The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. Cairo time (0351 GMT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 metres) when it vanished from radar screens.
After delays caused by poor weather conditions, Egyptian search and rescue teams located the site of the crash in the Hassana area 35 km (22 miles) south of the Sinai Mediterranean coastal city of Al Arish, the aviation ministry statement said.
Feature image source: Reuters