Search continues for missing Air France jet with 228 aboard (Lead)

June 2nd, 2009 - 1:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Rio de Janeiro/Paris, June 2 (DPA) Search efforts were renewed early Tuesday as 228 people were feared dead in the crash of an Air France jet in the Atlantic Ocean en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.
A pilot from Brazil’s airline TAM possibly spotted a burning piece of wreckage on the Atlantic Ocean while he was crossing the Atlantic early Monday morning.

The Brazilian Air Force confirmed late Monday that the pilot saw “orange-coloured spots” in the middle of the Atlantic. The observation could have approximately corresponded to the time Air France 447 disappeared from radar.

The aircraft, with 228 people from 32 countries on board, went missing at about 0215 GMT Monday. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in Paris the chances of finding any survivors were “very slim”.

Sarkozy also said the French government asked US authorities to help locate the precise site of the crash with the aid of their satellites.

The Airbus A330-200 left Rio de Janeiro for Paris Sunday at 2203 GMT, but lost radio contact with Brazilian air control at about 0130 GMT, officials said.

At about 0200 GMT, the aircraft entered a zone of severe turbulence and storms, Air France chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon told journalists in Paris. Some 15 minutes later, several automatic maintenance messages from the aircraft signalled the failure of electrical systems, he added.

Search planes from Brazil and France are looking for the wreckage in the sea between Brazil and West Africa.

Air France’s website identified the nationalities of the 216 passengers.

The crew consisted of 11 French and one Brazilian crew member, an Air France statement said.

Passengers included 61 French, 58 Brazilians, 26 Germans, nine Italians, nine Chinese, six Swiss, five Lebanese, five Britons, four Hungarians, three Slovaks, three Irish, three Norwegians; two each from Spain, the US, Morocco, Poland; one each from South Africa, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Gambia, Iceland, the Netherlands, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Turkey.

Air France set up hotlines and help centres for relatives in Paris and Rio.

The TAM crew “saw glowing spots on the high sea on its path between Europe and Brazil, about 1,300 km off the island Fernando de Noronha”, according to media reports based on an announcement by the TAM airline.

Fernando de Noronha is about 350 km off the Brazilian coast. TAM informed Brazilian authorities of the sighting.

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