SINAI: A Russian airliner has crashed in central Sinai with more than 200 people on board, the office of Egypt’s prime minister has confirmed.The Airbus A-321 had just left the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, bound for the Russian city of St Petersburg.Wreckage was found in the Hasana area and bodies removed, along with the plane’s “black box”. An official described a “tragic scene”.Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced Sunday a day of mourning.He has ordered an official investigation into the crash, and for rescue teams to be sent to the crash site.
Egyptian officials said all the passengers were Russian.A commission headed by Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov is to leave for Egypt on Saturday afternoon.A criminal case has also been opened against the airline, Kogalymavia, for “violation of rules of flight and preparation for them”, Russia’s Ria news agency reported.The airline, based in western Siberia, operates under the name Metrojet.Russian authorities say it was carrying 217 passengers, 138 of them women and 17 children aged between 2 and 17. Most were tourists. There were seven crew on board.A centre to help relatives of the passengers has been set up at Pulkovo airport, Tass news agency quoted St Petersburg city officials as saying.
Initially there were conflicting reports about the fate of the plane, some suggesting it had disappeared over Cyprus.But the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail confirmed in a statement that a “Russian civilian plane… crashed in the central Sinai”.It added that Mr Ismail had formed a crisis committee to deal with the crash.Media reports say at least 50 ambulances have been sent to the scene.Access to the area is strictly controlled by the military and the terrain is difficult, correspondents say.
One official told Reuters news agency that at least 100 bodies had been found, and so far no survivors.”I now see a tragic scene,” the official said. “A lot of dead on the ground and many died whilst strapped to their seats.”The plane split in two, with one part burning up and the other crashing into a rock, he added.The Russian aviation authority Rosaviatsiya said in a statement that flight KGL9268 left Sharm el-Sheikh at 06:51 Moscow time (03:51 GMT) and had been due into St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport at 12:10.The authority added that the aircraft failed to make scheduled contact with Cyprus air traffic control 23 minutes after take-off and disappeared from the radar.