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As it happened: Plane crashes in French Alps
Emergency services arrive on the scene. Photo: ActuSecours/Twitter

As it happened: Plane crashes in French Alps

The Local · 24 Mar 2015, 13:42

Published: 24 Mar 2015 11:35 GMT+01:00
Updated: 24 Mar 2015 13:42 GMT+01:00

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19:24 That rounds up our coverage of what now ranks as one of France's worst air disasters of all time. 
Scroll down to find out more about how the accident and its aftermath unfolded. Click here to see a timeline of the day in pictures and here to read everything we know so far. 
18:28 Spain's Deputy Prime Minister declares three official days of mourning
Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría said in a press conference that Spain would also observe one minute of silence at 12pm on Wednesday. 
She said the Spanish government were participating in the investigation and all information would be made available on the government's website. 
"The priority is to enable a protocol to help the families of the victims," Santamaría said. 
18:23 First video footage of crash site emerges 
18:10 Black box found, French interior minister confirms 
AFP are reporting that French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said a black box had been found on Tuesday following the crash of an Airbus A320 Germanwings plane in the French Alps.
"A black box was found and will be delivered to investigators," Cazeneuve told reporters.
18:05 Spanish PM to visit crash site on Wednesday 
Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he will visit Wednesday the site of the German passenger jet crash in the French Alps that killed 150 people, many of whom are thought to be Spaniards.
"Tomorrow I will visit the area of the air accident in France," Rajoy said in a message on Twitter. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also announced she will visit the zone on Wednesday.
17:59 Latest on the crash site 
"The plane has crashed in a very steep area, almost cliff. It looks like a bomb site," the Deputy Mayor of Vernet, Jean-Marie Michel, told the French newspaper Libération. He added that the debris was "scattered in a radius of 500 metres."
17:55 People come to light candles outside Joseph-König gymnasium. Sixteen students at the secondary school who were returning to Germany after an exchange with a school in Catalonia are among the victims of Tuesday's Germanwings plane crash. (Photo Sascha Schuermann/AFP)
17:42 No fly zone put in place over crash area 
The area above the crash zone has been shut down for unauthorized air traffic, tweeted the national Gendarmerie police unit. 
17:35 French firefighters gather in a gym converted into a temporary rescue centre in Seyne, close to the crash site. (Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP)
17:29 The French authorities released a diagram of the crash site.
17:26 - Authorities flock to the scene
There are ten helicopters, one military plane, 350 firefighters and 300 military police are on the scene, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said in a statement. The minister himself is also in the area. 
Meanwhile, here is a picture showing the exact location of the wreckage. 
17:23 - First images of the aircraft released
Regional paper La Provence has released a set of images from the scene, where debris from the plane can be seen littered in small pieces over the entire mountainside.
 17:20 Black box has reportedly been found

17:13 International reaction

US President Barack Obama was briefed early Tuesday on a plane crash in the French Alps that killed 150 people, the White House said. Obama's assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism Lisa Monaco appraised the president about the Germanwings Airbus 320 crash.

"There is no indication of a nexus to terrorism at this time," National Security Council spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said.

She said, "Security officials have been in touch with French, German, and Spanish
authorities and have offered assistance."

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families and loved ones."

European leaders also expressed their shock and sadness at the airline tragedy.

Denmark’s foreign minister sent his "deepest condolences"

 Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström was among those leading the condolences for the families of the victims on Tuesday.

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said he was "deeply shocked" by the Germanwings accident.

17:10 Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve arrives on the scene

17:07 "A body that moved" 

There are unsubstantiated reports that there could be a possible survivor. Haute-Provence Info tweeted a quote attributed to General David Galtier, "The urgency is to rescue any possible survivors; we might have seen a body that moved."

 16:36  First images of crash scene emerge
The below picture was reportedly taken by Christophe Castaner, MP in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region and mayor of Forcalquier.

 He tweeted of the "horror" at in the mountains, adding that the plane was "totally destroyed".

"There's nothing but debris and bodies," he added.
And here is a video from what is understood to be the scene of the crash.
16:32 Snow could be affecting access to crash site 

Ski instructor and mountain guide Mathieu Subé, who lives in the neighbouring town to Barcelonnette said that it began to snow a little before 2pm. He explained to Catalan daily La Vanguardia that access to the accident site was "very difficult" and said bad weather would worsen access even more as the day went on.

"I know the area well; there are very steep and remote areas which are covered in snow," he said.

16:12 What we know so far

- A Germanwings A320 has crashed near the town of Barcelonnette at an altitude of 2000m in the southern French Alps. 

- The plane was carrying 150 people: 144 passengers, two pilots and four crew members. 

- French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said helicopters have just arrived at the site and no survivors have been found. 

- The plane was carrying 45 Spaniards, as well as German, French and Turkish passengers. 

- Passengers included a group of 16 German secondary school students who had just taken part in an exchange with a Catalan school. 

Germanwings crash: What we know so far 

15:58 - Helicopters reach wreckage 

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said that a helicopter has landed near the wreckage and found no survivors, reported the AP news agency.

15:52 The last commercial airline accident in Spain was the Spanair flight, 5022 (JK5022) which crashed just after take-off from Madrid’s Barajas en route to Gran Canaria (pictured below). The aircraft was a McDonnell Douglas MD-82 and the accident, on August 2008, left 162 people dead. Remarkably 18 people survived.

15:39 President of the European Council, Donald Tusk has expressed his condolences 

In a statement on the European Council's website he said: 

"On behalf of the European Union, I wish to convey my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the flight that crashed in southern France this morning.

"Let me also express my sympathy and solidarity to the governments of all affected nations, including to the French President, the German Chancellor and the Spanish Prime Minister."

15:21 La Vanguardia are reporting that forensic officers from Catalan's Los Mossos police force have begun taking DNA samples from family members of crash victims, who are currently gathering in Barcelona's El Prat airport. 

French air force helicopters before taking off for the crash site. Photo: AFP

15:16 Germanwings press conference

Germanwings are currently holding a press conference and have confirmed that there were 67 German passengers on board. 

They confirmed that 144 passengers, including two babies, and six crew including two pilots and four flight attendants were aboard.

The plane had undergone a routine mechanical check on Monday in Düsseldorf. Its last major service was in summer 2013 - as called for under the manufacturer Airbus' maintenance schedule.

The pilot had more than 10 years' experience with Lufthansa and Germanwings, and a total of 6,000 flight hours on the A320 model.

Germanwings, Lufthansa, and Airbus technicians are on their way to the crash site to help the investigation in any way they can.

"Together with the authorities we will do everything to understand the cause of this accident as quickly and comprehensively as possible," Germanwings CEO Thomas Winkelmann said.

15:12 Family members of crash victims hold onto one another at Barcelona's El Prat airport (Quique García/AFP) 

15:07 French emergency services workers (back) and members of the French gendarmerie gather in Seyne, south-eastern France, near the site where a Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed in the French Alps. (Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP)

15:02  - More on the distress signal confusion

The crew of the Germanwings flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday did not send a distress signal, civil aviation authorities told AFP.

"The crew did not send a Mayday. It was air traffic control that decided to declare the plane was in distress because there was no contact with the crew of the plane," the source said.

14:58 Wreckage spread over 2km square

According to reports on BFM TV the debris of the place is spread over an area around the two kilometre squared at an altitude of 2,700 metres.

Part of the aircraft is said to have come down in the village of Barcelonnette.

 14:53 16 students and two teachers among passengers

Local German newspaper Ruhr Nachrichten is reporting that there were 16 students and two teachers from the Joseph-König Gymnasium in Haltern am See, a town roughly 80km from Dusseldorf, according to La Vanguardia. 

14:42 Angela Merkel to travel to crash site tomorrow

The German Chancellor has just announced on television that she will travel to the crash site tomorrow. 

14:29 Germanwings has released an emergency telephone number for family members of victims. From Spain call 902 400 012‏ and from Germany 0 80011 3355 77

Exchange students returning home among crash victims

14:18: Some 15 of the victims were German students returning home after a student exchange trip with Catalonia’s Giola Institute secondary school in Linars del Vallès, a staff member confirmed to The Local. 

14:15 "No sign of crash survivors" says Spanish king. 

King Felipe, who announced he was cancelling a state visit to France in the wake of the Germanwings plane crash said there were German, Spanish and Turkish passengers on board. 

14:10 - 'I heard a loud thud overhead, like the sound of an avalanche'

Eyewitness report from a resident in the village of Le Vernet, near to the crash site.

“This morning I heard a huge thud and then I saw several fighter jets fly over the village,” the resident told Le Parisien newspaper. “The initial sound I heard was like an avalanche or like the sound of dynamite that they blow up to cause an avalanche.”

“Then around noon I looked out the window and I saw a column of smoke rising into the air. From the centre of the village to the crash site must be around 3km. But we are in the mountains and there’s a lot of snow.

“At the moment there are helicopters flying over overhead.”

THe town of Barcelonnette near where the Germanwings plane crashed on Tuesday. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt
14:07 - Witnesses hear the crash
Pierre Polizzi, who owns a nearby camping site, told al-Jazeera that he heard the plane come down. 
"There was a loud noise and then suddenly nothing. At first I thought it came from fighter jets that often hold drills in the area," he said. 
"The plane crashed just 2 kilometres from here, high on a mountain."
14:09 UK Foreign Minister statement
14:05 Worst aviation disaster in France since 1981

The crash of the Germanwings Airbus flight is one of the worst aviation disaster in France in the last 40 years, dating back to the crash of a Turkish airlines flight in the Oise region near Paris in 1974, that killed all 346 people on board.

In 1981, all 180 people on board a passenger plane were killed when the aircraft crashed into mountains on the island of Corsica.

The last major plane crash in France was the Concorde crash at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris in July 2000, that killed 109 passengers and crew. 

14.03 Emergency services arriving at the crash area (below). 
13:57 British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley has tweeted his condolences (below). 
13:53 The passenger number has been confirmed as 150 by airline Germanwings in a statement: 144 passengers, 2 pilots and 4 crew. 
13:53 President of Catalonia Artur Mas said in a televised address "I express my condolences to the families of the victims at this difficult time."
13:51 Spain's airport authority has set up a special area in Terminal 2 of Barcelona's El Prat airport for families of the victims with psychologists on hand. 
13:49 Families are arriving at El Prat airport in Barcelona (pictured below). 
Spanish King cancels state visit 
13:48 King Felipe has cancelled state visit to France, El País are reporting. 
13:40 Spain's Minister of Transport, Ana Pastor, is travelling to the crash site, said Prime Minister Rajoy. 
Spanish Prime Minister statement
13:30 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in a televised statement from Vitoria said he has cancelled all engagements and is heading back to Madrid. He has created a "crisis cabinet" and spoken to Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande and the Spanish King Felipe, who is currently on a state visit to France. 
Story continues below…
13:26 This tweet (below) shows the blank arrivals board at Dusseldorf airport. The German ambassador to France said she would visit the crash site "within hours". 
13:19 Spanish King Felipe and Queen Letizia are reportedly at the Elysee Palace with President Hollande. They are currently on their first state visit as king and queen where Felipe was expected to speak in front of the National Assembly. Those plans now likely to change, say El País. 
Photo: AFP
13:14 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, in a tweet (below) says, "Saddened by the airline accident in the Alps. A tragedy. We are working with French and German authorities on the investigation". 
12:58 Spanish government confirms that 45 Spaniards were on board the flight, from Barcelona en route to Dusseldorf. 
12:55 Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr issues statement on Twitter: 
12: 32 Live departure board at Barcelona still shows flight as "en route" 
12:19 - Shares slump

Shares in Airbus, the European aerospace giant, slumped on news of the accident, down 1.77 percent to 58.94 euros at 1100 GMT after briefly sliding two percent.

12:17 - Another aviation tragedy 

President François Hollande says "It is a new aviation tragedy, a grief that we have to experience. The first support we offer is solidarity".

12:12 - 'No survivors expected'

French president François Hollande has said that authorities do not expect their to be any survivors form the Germanwings plane crash. There were 148 people on board in total, with 142 passengers and six crew.
The French PM has confirmed that the wreckage has been found and emergency crews and firefighters are on their way to the scene.

12:17 The flight path has been recorded here: 

12:07 Live webcam from where flight has reportedly gone down.

12:03 - People in Dusseldorf, Germany, where the flight was heading are desperately trying to find out information andwe are hearing reports that the website for the airport has crashed. People are being advised to contact Germanwings through the company site, but that too is proving problematic.

12:02 - Emergency crews are on their way to the crash site, reports says, including firefighters and emergency first aid teams. 

11:58 - The flight had 142 passengers, 2 pilots, and 4 stewards. 

Germanwings, the airline, is advising people to go to its website,www.germanwings.com, for updates but the site is loading very slowly.

The tweet above shows when the plane lost contact with control towers. 

11:56 - According to French media two helicopters from France's aviation police (DGAC) located the wreckage of the plane near Prads-Haute-Bléone, between Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonnette.

11:52 - Reports about the number of people who were on board the flight are varying. French newspaper Le Parisien reported that 142 people were on board the plane, whereas other sources are quoting 152 people in all.

11:50 - Here's the latest from AFP: 

An Airbus A320 plane crashed on Tuesday in the southern French Alps, security sources said.

One of the sources said the plane belonged to Germanwings, an affiliate of German airline Lufthansa, travelling between Barcelona and Dusseldorf. The single-aisle A320 typically seats 150 to 180 people.

11:48 - The flight, number GWI9525, took off at 10.01am from Barcelona and was due to land in Düsseldorf at 11.49am.

11:45  - According to reports a Germanwings plane has crashed near the town of Dignes in the southern French Alps. Reports say the plane which was heading from Barcelona in Spain to Dusseldorf in Germany crashed around 11am.


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