An Air France passenger plane has gone missing over the Atlantic off the Brazilian coast with 228 people on board and Brazil's air force are searching the area for the plane.
A relative of the missing airliner's victims leaves the Rio de Janeiro International Airport escorted by guards in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 1, 2009. An Air France airliner with 228 people onboard missing over the Atlantic Ocean after its takeoff from Rio de Janeiro on Sunday was probably hit by lightning and suffered an electrics failure while flying through an Atlantic storm, said Air France on Monday. [Xinhua]
Flight 447, an Airbus 330-200 bound for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, lost contact with the control center shortly after its takeoff from Rio de Janeiro on Sunday at 7 p.m. (2200 GMT). It was expected in Paris on Monday at 11:15 a.m. (0915 GMT).
French Environment Minister Jean Louis Borloo said the jet "was not hijacked and probably had some kind of accident."
An airport employee said that the plane sent a short-circuit message at 0214 GMT, 15 minutes after a turbulence.
Air France said later in a statement the plane that carried 228 on board "crossed through a thunderous zone with strong turbulence" at around 0200 GMT Monday, and "an automatic message was received at 0214 GMT signaling electrical circuit malfunction."
A Reuters report said the plane disappeared from Brazilian radar at around 10.30 p.m. local time (0130 GMT) on Sunday after about three to 3 1/2 hours of flight.
That flying time would mean controllers lost track of the plane while it was relatively close to Brazil, rather than nearer its destination in France, the report said.
Experts predict that the plane would be out of fuel by now, warning the public of the most tragic scenario.
Reports said the plane disappeared from both military and civil radar screens about 300 km northeast of the coastal Brazilian city of Natal.
France's Transport Minister Dominique Bussereau (C) arrives at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, France, on June 1, 2009. An Air France plane with 228 people on board has gone missing over the Atlantic off the Brazilian coast on its way from Brazil to Paris on Monday. [Xinhua]
An Air France spokeswoman said the flight was carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members and expressed its regrets over the bad news. The 216 passengers included one infant, seven children, 82 women and 126 men, according to Air France.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement that he felt "extremely worried" and demanded the air authorities to spare no efforts in searching the missing jet and found out the real reason behind it as quickly as possible.
It is reported that an emergency office has been set up at the Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport to deal with the situation.
The plane entered service in 2005 and last underwent maintenance on April 16, according to Air France.
(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2009)