Body part, suitcases and seats found in hunt for EgyptAir plane, says Greece

Passenger plane had disappeared from radar screens on route to Cairo

Body part, suitcases and seats found in hunt for EgyptAir plane, says Greece

File photo: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

Egypt's military has spotted a body part, seats and suitcases in the Mediterranean Sea in the area where EgyptAir flight MS804 disappeared from radar, Greece's defence minister has said.

Panos Kammenos told a news conference: "We were informed (by Egyptian authorities) that a body part, two seats and one or more items of luggage just south of where the aircraft signal was lost."

Earlier, Egypt's military said passengers' belongings were among items found by a navy vessel and aircraft sweeping the area in the hunt for the black box.

The debris was believed to include parts of the missing plane and was found 290km (180 miles) from the Egyptian city of Alexandria.

The wreckage, which has been recovered, will be analysed by British, French and Egyptian investigators, and an expert from Airbus, airport officials said.

Meanwhile, an Egyptian paper has quoted the country's civil aviation minister as telling victims' relatives that there are "no survivors".

Egyptair said on Twitter that radar contact with the plane was lost about 295km from the Egyptian coastline.

The flight left Paris at 10.09pm Irish time on Wednesday but vanished just over three hours into its four-hour journey towards Cairo.

The European Space Agency said one of its satellites has spotted a possible oil slick in the same area but there was no certainty it came from the plane.

France's foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told media on Friday morning there was "absolutely no indication" what brought down the flight despite the Egyptian authorities saying terrorism was the most likely cause.

On Thursday, Egypt's Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathi said that while the disaster was still under investigation, the possibility it was a terror attack was "higher than the possibility of having a technical failure".

But European security officials have said the passenger list for flight MS804 did not contain the names of anyone on a current terror watch list.

There were 56 passengers and 10 crew travelling on the Airbus A320.

The captain has been identified as Mohamed Said Shoukair, the co-pilot as Mohamed Mamdouh Assem, and three of the air stewards as Yara Hany Tawfik, Samar Ezz Eldin and Mervat Zakaria.

'Sudden swerves'

As well as Egyptian military, boats and planes from Greece, France, Cyprus and Italy also taking part in the search.

The deputy chairman of EgyptAir said maintenance checks were carried out on the Airbus before it flew and "No problems have been reported", French newspaper L'Express reported. 

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 time - about 80 minutes after it was supposed to land in Cairo.

It is thought this may have been triggered on impact.

But the Egyptian authorities said no distress signal had been sent, despite earlier suggestions.

The search will focus on the hunt for the plane's black boxes, which emit a small signal for several weeks after a plane crashes.

Lara Marlowe, Paris correspondent for the Irish Times, told Newstalk's Pat Kenny Show this morning that security measures have been dramatically tightened at the city's airports over terrorism fears.

She said investigators are now looking into the background of passengers and crew that were on the plane.

"If it was a terrorist attack, which most people seem to believe, then why has there been no claim of responsibility?" she added. "Usually there is very quickly as it was in the attacks in Paris last November."