Saturday,18 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)
Saturday,18 August, 2018
Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

In the sea of mystery

The search is on for debris and flight recorders that could explain why EgyptAir Flight 804 crashed into the Mediterranean, reports Ahmed Morsy

Al-Ahram Weekly
Early hours this morning, the Egyptian Armed Forces stated that it has found debris of the crashed plane and passenger belongings about 295 km north of the coastal city of Alexandria. The navy currently is sweeping the area in search of the plane’s black box.
EgyptAir Flight No 804 crashed over the Mediterranean Sea early on Thursday while flying from Paris to Cairo. Sixty-six people were on board the passenger plane, including 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, and one each from Britain, Belgium, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Chad, Portugal, Algeria and Chad.
“All scenarios are possible,” Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said in a press conference on Thursday afternoon. But he added that the “possibility of a terrorist act is higher than that of a technical error”. Fathi, however, qualified his predictions as “assumptions and possible scenarios” and that he would still use the word ‘missing’ “until we find the debris”.
Hours later, EgyptAir issued a statement confirming that the wreckage was found. “An EgyptAir source stated that the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation has just received an official letter from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that confirms the finding of wreckage of the missing aircraft MS 804 near Karpathos Island,” the statement said.
Greek officials, however, cast doubt on Egypt’s confirmation that it found debris belonging to the plane, giving a conflicting account of the findings to the Associated Press and Reuters.
Ihab Badawi, Egypt’s ambassador to France, told BFM television: “All I will say is that our embassy in Athens told us that it was contacted by Greek authorities, who signalled that they found white and blue debris corresponding to EgyptAir’s colours.” But Greek sources told Reuters the colour of the material they had found so far was not blue and white.
In an earlier statement, EgyptAir said that “with reference to the information aired by several TV channels about finding wreckage of the missing Egyptian aircraft, EgyptAir contacted the concerned authorities who did not confirm this information.”
After conveying its deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers on board, EgyptAir stated that the “Egyptian investigation team, in co-operation with its Greek counterpart, is still searching for other remains of the missing plane.”
Chairman of the Central Administration for Aircraft Accidents at the Egyptian Ministry of Aviation Ayman Al-Moqaddem said Egypt will head the committee investigating the EgyptAir crash. “In line with international laws, the Egyptian Ministry of Civil Aviation will head the committee investigating the plane crash of the EgyptAir flight, being the aircraft owner,” Al-Moqaddem said, adding that France will be taking part in the investigation as the manufacturer of the aircraft, an Airbus A320-200.
The plane, on its fifth journey of the day, was travelling at 37,000 feet when it disappeared from radar.
Moreover, Moqaddem added that the countries where the families of the victims hail from will participate in the investigation, acquiring observer status.
On the same day, Egypt’s prosecutor-general ordered a state security investigation into the missing plane. Paris prosecutors have also opened an investigation and no theories are being ruled out.
The White House has offered assistance to European and Middle East allies, saying that the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration have been in contact with foreign ministries and aviation departments to help improve security measures. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said on Thursday evening, “We did not have any ships in the immediate area,” but a navy P3 aircraft is “helping with the search and recovery mission”. At least eight merchant ships and a French Greek aircraft were reported that they joined the search on the same day.
According to Reuters, the plane made “sudden swerves” before it came down, the Greek defence minister has said. He said the plane “made two sharp turns before plunging into the Mediterranean Sea”. According to BBC, the minister added that the Airbus A320 had "turned 90 degrees left and then a 360-degree turn to the right". It then dropped more than 25,000ft (7,620m) before disappearing from radar, he added.
In light of the initial reports, observers believe that no possible cause of the disaster can be ruled out, although the lack of a distress call from the plane indicates a possible bomb attack or a major technological failure that destroyed the aircraft in a matter of seconds.
Nevertheless, the Egyptian Civil Aviation minister in response said that “nothing should be concluded from reported sightings of flashes in the sky at the time of the plane’s disappearance”. Fathi also said there were no known security issues with passengers on the plane.
French President Francois Hollande was the first to confirm the crash of the plane when it was still reported missing. “The information that we have managed to gather confirm, alas, that this plane has crashed, and it has disappeared,” Hollande said early on Thursday.
“No hypothesis should be ruled out. Everything should be put at the disposal of the Greek and Egyptian authorities so that we can liaise with them. We have to send them ships and planes to find where the plane crashed, and to do whatever we can to collect the debris. That will allow us to discover the truth.
“It could be a terrorist hypothesis but at this stage we should express our solidarity to the families and find out the cause of the catastrophe,” Hollande said, adding, “We will find the truth.”

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