Hunt for missing EgyptAir plane after airline retracts statement on finding of wreckage

Egyptian authorities have said terrorism was most likely cause for disappearance


Relatives grieve as they leave Cairo International Airport | PA Images

The search for a missing EgyptAir that lost contact with radar between Paris and Cairo has intensified after the airline rowed back on an earlier statement that said wreckage had been found.

EgyptAir flight MS804 departed the French capital at 10.09pm Irish time on Wednesday but went missing just over three hours into its four-hour journey towards Cairo.

There were 56 passengers and 10 crew on board: 30 Egyptians, 15 French, two Iraqis, a Belgian, a Kuwaiti, a Saudi, a Sudanese, a Chadian, an Algerian, a Portuguese and a Canadian. Among them were two babies and a child.

EgyptAir last night said that the wreckage of the plane had not yet been found, just hours after saying debris discovered in the Mediterranean belonged to the aircraft.

The airline retracted an earlier statement that said the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had confirmed the finding of wreckage.

It came after multiple reports in Greece and Egypt claimed that debris including floating objects and life vests had been found.

The French foreign minister has said there is "absolutely no indication" what brought down the flight, despite the Egyptian authorities saying terrorism was the most likely cause.

Greece, France and the UK have all sent support to Egyptian armed forces searching for the jet.

Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told Sky News that, as daylight arrives, the searchers would be looking for a "debris trail, a fuel slick from the aviation turbine fuel and oil from the engines".

He added: "We should find, as we did with Air France 447 in 2009, a distinct trail across the ocean and that will tell us where the aircraft impacted the ocean.

"While the radar tracked it for some time, it did not track it all the way to impact - it was spinning, so we don't know really where it impacted the ocean."

Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos said the aircraft was in Egyptian airspace and flying at 37,000ft when it made "sudden swerves" and plunged to 15,000ft.

He said it swerved "90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right" before vanishing.

Military search and rescue teams picked up an automated signal from the plane's emergency beacon at 3.26am Irish times - about 80 minutes after it was supposed to land in Cairo. It is thought this may have been triggered on impact.

It is not clear what brought the plane down but Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said the plane, which was en route from Paris to Cairo, is more likely to have been brought down by a "terror attack" than a technical fault.