Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)
Wednesday,18 July, 2018
Issue 1296, (19 - 25 May 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The search for Flight 804

While debris and body parts have been found by teams searching for EgyptAir Flight 804 which plunged into the Mediterranean, the black boxes which could hold the clues behind the crash have yet to be retrieved. Mohamed Abdel-Baky reports 

Al-Ahram Weekly

Debris and passenger belongings of EgyptAir Flight 804, which crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday with 66 people on board, started to be found on Friday.

The reason behind the plane crash is still unknown as the investigation has not yet started. However, Western news outlets believe that the possibility of terrorism is more likely than a technical failure on the Airbus 320 which was made for EgyptAir in 2003 and has not had any technical problems since 2013.

EgyptAir Flight 804, which was travelling from Paris to Cairo, crashed over the Mediterranean Sea late Wednesday night. At around 2:45am local time, just after reaching Egyptian airspace and about 30 miles from the coast, the airplane made a hard left turn and  dropped from its 37,000-foot cruising altitude to 15,000 feet, then to 9,000 feet, and disappeared from radar a few minutes later. 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.

On Friday afternoon, the Egyptian military said that its search teams had recovered “body parts” and debris from a site in the Mediterranean where the missing EgyptAir flight was presumed to have crashed. EgyptAir said on its official Twitter account that the Egyptian army and navy had found body parts, luggage, passengers' personal belongings and plane seats. Later on Friday, the European Space Agency (ESA) said that one of its satellites had detected a possible oil slick in the Mediterranean Sea in same area where the Airbus vanished.

The image, taken by satellite Sentinel-1A at 1600 GMT on Thursday, shows a slick about two kilometres (1.2 miles) long, roughly 40km southeast of the aircraft's last known location.  A second image taken at 0400 GMT on Friday showed that the slick had drifted by about five kilometres.

“There is, however, no guarantee that the slick is from the missing aircraft,” the agency said in a statement.

The ESA said it had passed on information related to the image to the relevant authorities but added there was no guarantee that the slick was from the EgyptAir plane. It said another satellite, Sentinel-2A, would pass over the same area on Sunday.

The Egyptian military released a video of its naval forces launching search operations in the sea.

After the finding of debris was announced, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi offered his condolences to the families of passengers and crew on board the EgyptAir jet.

“The presidency with great sadness and deep sorrow mourns the victims aboard the EgyptAir flight who were killed after the plane crashed in the Mediterranean,” the president's office said in a statement.

The presidency said that an investigation is underway to “uncover the circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident and identify truths and causes of the crash”.

It expressed its thanks to countries assisting Egyptian forces in the search, which include Greece, France, Britain, Cyprus and Italy.

Minister of Civil Aviation Sherif Fathi said in a statement that the government had formed a committee to investigate the crash, adding that an Airbus representative is taking part in the investigation.

Moreover, three French investigators and a technical expert from Airbus arrived in Cairo early on Friday to assist in the hunt for the missing passenger jet, airport sources said. AP reported that three British investigators also arrived in the Egyptian capital to help in the probe.

Families of foreign passengers on the flight also arrived in Cairo to meet EgyptAir officials to see what the next steps will be in the investigation.

Head of the Coptic Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II said a mass service would be held for those who died at Cairo's Abbasiya Cathedral on Sunday. The Ministry of Civil Aviation also announced that prayers will be held on Monday.

Although early suspicion pointed to terrorist militants, no group had claimed responsibility more than 48 hours after the disappearance of Flight 804. However, some experts say terrorists groups tend in some attacks to delay claiming responsibility for several reasons, including the safety of their members.

Timemagazine said that if the EgyptAir jet was downed by a terrorist attack, France would then have to start an investigation that may include background checks on the 86,000 airport workers cleared to work in the so-called “reserved zone” beyond the reach of passengers.

The EgyptAir crash prompted many celebrities to extend condolences on their accounts on social media.

“A message to all Egypt…” is how the famed musician Yanni expressed his sadness. “Yes, I love this great nation.  My heart hurts watching these beautiful people endure so much pain.  We stand with them and send them our love as we all watch these tragic events unfold.  The people of Egypt only want what we all want. They want their freedom! And I know they will succeed! Freedom is in their hearts and flows through their veins! I have spent enough time with them to know what they are made of... They are a great people, living in an amazing country, and their spirit will never be broken!!”   YANNI.

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