An EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo carrying 66 people disappeared from radar early Thursday morning, the airline said, amid fears that it has crashed into the sea as Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said it was too early to rule out any explanation for the incident, including terrorism.
Ihab Raslan, a spokesman for the Egyptian civil aviation authority, told SkyNews Arabia that the plane was about to enter Egyptian airspace when it disappeared from radar.
The airline, however, said the Airbus A320 had vanished 10 miles (16 kilometers) after it entered Egyptian airspace.
EgyptAir Flight 804 was lost from radar at 2:45 a.m. local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet, the airline said.
The plane most likely crashed into the sea, Raslan said.
Egypt state newspaper Ahram said the pilot made no distress call before the plane vanished on its way from Paris to Cairo.
“Search operations are ongoing at this time for the airplane in the area where it is believed to have lost contact,” Ismail told reporters at Cairo airport.
Asked by a journalist if he could rule out that terrorists were behind the incident, Ismail said: “We cannot exclude anything at this time or confirm anything. All the search operations must be concluded so we can know the cause.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi will chair a national security council meeting on Thursday morning, a statement from his office said. It did not say if the meeting would discuss the plane.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault offered to send military planes and boats to join the Egyptian search for wreckage.
“We are at the disposition of the Egyptian authorities with our military capacities, with our planes, our boats to help in the search for this plane,” he said. He spoke after French President Francois Hollande held an emergency meeting at the Elysee Palace.
Hollande spoke with el-Sisi on the phone and agreed to “closely cooperate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances” surrounding the incident, according to a statement issued in Paris.
Those on board, according to EgyptAir, included 15 French passengers, 30 Egyptians, two Iraqis, one Briton, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese, one Belgian, one Algerian and one Canadian.
Greece joined the search and rescue operation for the EgyptAir flight with two aircraft, one C-130 and one early warning aircraft, officials at the Hellenic National Defense General Staff said.
They said one frigate was also heading to the area, and helicopters are on standby on the southern island of Karpathos for potential rescue or recovery operations.
An EgyptAir plane was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus in March. A man who admitted to the hijacking and is described by Cypriot authorities as “psychologically unstable” is in custody in Cyprus.
The incident renewed security concerns months after a Russian passenger plane was blown out of the sky over the Sinai Peninsula. The Russian plane crashed in Sinai on Oct. 31, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow said it was brought down by an explosive device, and a local branch of ISIS has claimed responsibility for planting it.
In 1999, EgyptAir Flight 1990 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, killing all 217 people aboard, U.S. investigators filed a final report that concluded its co-pilot switched off the autopilot and pointed the Boeing 767 downward. But Egyptian officials rejected the notion of suicide altogether, insisting some mechanical reason caused the crash.