Nine Chinese nationals were among the 228 people on board an Air France passenger plane which is presumed to have crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, the airline company said Monday.
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]
Air France announced that victims aboard Flight 447 missing over the Atlantic on route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport came from 32 countries. Nine Chinese nationals were among the list.
Chinese Embassy in Brazil previously told Xinhua that eight Chinese nationals were aboard the Air France passenger plane. Of the eight Chinese nationals, one was a Chinese applicant for the status of investment immigrant in Brazil, one was an employee of China's Huawei technologies Co. Ltd, and six were with the Benxi Iron & Steel Company based in northeast China's Liaoning Province.
Most of the 228 people aboard the plane were Brazilians, with 73 French nationals and 20 Germans, according to French media.
Chances of finding any survivors are "very slim" as an Air France airliner with 228 people on board vanished over the Atlantic Ocean, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday.
In a statement at Paris' Charles de Gaulle following his meeting with relatives of passengers on the plane, Sarkozy said: " The chances of finding any survivors are very slim."
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]
The Air France Airbus A330-200, Flight 447, was probably hit by lightning and suffered an electrics failure while flying through an Atlantic storm, Air France said earlier in the day.
"The most likely thing is that the plane was hit by lightning. The plane was in a stormy area with strong turbulence, which provoked problems," said Francois Brouse, the director of communications of Air France.
The airplane, 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. local time (0915 GMT).
Air France Plane missing off Brazil
Earlier, Air France said in a statement that Flight 447, an Airbus 330-200 bound for Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members, "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.
The A330-200, which was developed to compete with the Boeing 767-300ER, is a large-capacity, wide-body, twin-engine, medium-to- long-range commercial passenger airliner.
Gallery: Flight may have crashed
A search was conducted by Brazil's air force near the Brazilian island of Fernando do Noronha, around the area where the airplane disappeared, about 370 km from the mainland and 2,400 km from Rio de Janeiro.
According to a spokesman from Brazil's air force, the search and rescue mission began Monday morning.
The 216 passengers included one infant, seven children, 82 women and 126 men, according to Air France. There were nine flight attendants and three flight crew.
There was "no hope" of any miracle, a Paris civil aviation official said grimly.
On Monday, France's Environment Minister Jean Jouis Borloo said that the plane wasn't hijacked and probably had some kind of accident.
Sarkozy said 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. Transport and environment ministers have been sent to monitor the situation at Charles de Gaulle airport.
(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2009)