German jetliner with 150 aboard crashes in France

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Paris: An Airbus A320 of a German budget airline with 150 people on board crashed on Tuesday in southern France while flying from Spain’s Barcelona to Germany’s Dusseldorf. French President Francois Hollande said no survivors are expected.

Confirming its flight 4U9525 met with an accident over the French Alps, Germanwings put the toll at 150. Earlier media reports said the plane carried 142 passengers and a crew of six.

Later on Tuesday, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said one of the black boxes of the Germanwings plane that crashed around 11 a.m. in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in the southern French Alps had been found, while Airbus has said it was sending experts to the crash site.

The plane has been obliterated, with no piece of debris larger than a “small car”, said Gilbert Sauvan, the president of Alpes de Haute Provence region, according to a CNN report.

There were 144 passengers and six crew members on board, Germanwings said in a joint statement with its parent company Lufthansa.

“We must confirm to our deepest regret that Germanwings Flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Duesseldorf has suffered an accident over the French Alps,” read the statement posted on their Twitter accounts.

Germanwings and Lufthansa have set up a free hotline with number 0800-11335577 for families of passengers involved for care and assistance. The identities of the passengers have not been disclosed while reports said the dead could include 40 Spaniards and a Belgian while 16 German students and two teachers were also booked on the flight.

“Everyone at Germanwings and Lufthansa is deeply shocked and saddened by these events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of the passengers and crew members,” the companies said.

Hollande expressed doubt over any passenger’s survival, saying: “The conditions of the accident, which are not yet clear, suggest there would be no survivors in this tragedy that happened in France.”

In his brief statement, he also expressed solidarity with Germany, Spain and the family members of the victims.

German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement that Chancellor Angela Merkel was deeply shocked at the plane crash, and talked to Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy over phone.

German President Joachim Gauck has reportedly cut short his trip in South America and will return to Berlin, while the German ambassador in Paris was on way to the crash site, according to the statement.

The German foreign ministry has set up a crisis team and hotline to deal with the issue, while the transportation ministry said the Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) has sent investigators to France.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed sympathy with the families of the passengers and said “our thoughts are with those fearing that their loved ones are among the victims”.

A municipal official in Germany’s Haltern town told CNN that 16 students and two teachers from one high school — Joseph Koenig Gymnasium — were booked on the flight, and a crisis centre has been come up the city hall in Haltern, which is about 77 km north of Duesseldorf.

Media reports indicated that the A320 jetliner was one of the oldest in Germanwings’ fleet and had served for over 24 years. It had flown to Barcelona from Duesseldorf earlier on Tuesday before meeting with the accident on the return flight.

Spanish Prime Minister Rajoy said that the plane crash was “dramatic and sad news with enormous human loss.

In a brief press conference in Victoria in Spain’s Basque region, he told reporters he could not give more information as all details were preliminary and he was returning to Madrid to take stock of the situation, reported Xinhua.

Asserting the government would do everything it could to support the families, he said a crisis unit has been set up while Public Works Minister Ana Pastor was on her way to France.

Spanish King Felipe VI, who is on a state visit to France, announced after a meeting with Hollande at the Elysee Palace that he was curtailing his visit due to the plane crash.

He said there were no signs of survivors from the plane crash.

At least one Belgian was killed in the crash, the Belgian ministry of foreign affairs told Xinhua.

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