20th Nov 2017

EU leaders express shock after plane crash

  • (Photo: angeloangelo)

European leaders have expressed their sorrow and offered their condolences to the families and friends of the 150 people who died on Tuesday (24 March) following the crash of a Germanwings flight in the French Alps.

The Airbus A320 plane - with 144 passengers, two pilots and four crew - was flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf and went off radar on Tuesday morning.

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As the news of the crash, near Digne in the Alps, started to come in French president Hollande said there was no survivors and that it was a day of "mourning."

The plane was carrying mostly Germans but reportedly also 45 Spanish people. Spain's King Felipe, in France for a state visit, cancelled the trip to return home.

Local Spanish media reported that a group of German students, on an exchange trip, were among those onboard.

Reports from the scene suggested the plane - a low cost affiliate of Lufthansa - did not emit any distress signals.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed "shock" at the news and spoke of the "deep mourning" of France, Germany and Spain. She is to travel to France on Wednesday.

"I will go there tomorrow to take account of the situation myself and to speak to the local authorities," she said in a brief statement on Tuesday afternoon.

EU council president Donald Tusk offered his "deepest condolences" while EU transport commissioner Violeta Bulc said "our thoughts" are with families and that EU services would "assist" in the investigation.

Flags at the EU institutions in Brussels are to fly half-mast from Wednesday for three days. "Europe is in mourning," said the EU commission's chief spokesperson.

The Germanwings accident is the first crash on French soil since 2000. According to the head of Germanwings, the plane took off at 10.35am and air traffic control lost contact with it at 10.53am.

Gilbert Sauvan, a local politician where the plane crashed, told newspaper Echos that "the plane has completely disintegrated. The biggest piece of debris is the size of a car."

Airbus is to launch a technical enquiry into the causes of the accident.

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