CAIRO (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Russian aircraft carrying 224 people crashed Saturday in a remote mountainous region in the Sinai Peninsula about 20 minutes after taking off from a Red Sea resort popular with Russian tourists, Egypt’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said.
Egyptian military and security officials said there were no survivors from among the 217 passengers and seven crew members on board. Most of the bodies recovered so far from the site of the crash were burned, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
Adel Mahgoub, chairman of the state company that runs Egypt’s civilian airports, said all passengers and crew were Russian citizens.
Russians in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn were horrified to hear there were no survivors.
“It’s a terrible story, really terrible story,” Leo told 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera. “People come back to Russia from vacation. A lot of people in Russia go on vacation to Egypt. It’s very popular in Russia.”
Roughly three million Russian tourists, or nearly a third of all visitors in 2014, go to Egypt every year, mostly to Red Sea resorts in Sinai or in mainland Egypt.
A civil aviation ministry statement said Egyptian military search and rescue teams found the wreckage of the passenger jet in the Hassana area some 44 miles south of the city of el-Arish, an area in northern Sinai where Egyptian security forces have for years battled a burgeoning Islamic militant insurgency which is now led by a local affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group.
The aviation ministry said the plane, believed to be an Airbus model, took off from Sharm el-Sheikh shortly before 6 a.m. for St. Petersburg in Russia and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after takeoff.
Egyptian officials said the aircraft was cruising at 36,000 feet when contact with air traffic controllers was lost.
Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said an investigative team has arrived at the crash site to examine the debris and locate the flight’s recorders.
Separately, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s top investigative body, has opened an investigation into the crash, according to a statement issued Saturday by committee spokesman Sergei Markin.
The Islamic State group is claiming responsibility for bringing down the Russian Metrojet plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula — but it has have offered no evidence and is not known to have the capability to do so.
It remains unclear what caused the plane crash, but Egyptian officials say the pilot reported technical difficulties and wanted to make an emergency landing.
The Metrojet crashed in an area where Egyptian forces have been battling an Islamic insurgency.
Lufthansa says it will no longer fly across the area where the plane went down.
A spokeswoman for Lufthansa told The Associated Press that the company had decided in a meeting Saturday that the carrier would not fly over Sinai “as long as the cause for today’s crash has not been clarified.”
The spokeswoman said that “security is our highest priority.”
Instead, the airline will use detours for destinations in region.
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