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Business News/ News / World/  Germanwings Airbus crashes in France; survivors unlikely

Germanwings Airbus crashes in France; survivors unlikely

The crash is likely to be the most fatal in at least three decades in France and is the first for Germanwings

A file photo of a Germanwings Airbus A320 at the Berlin airport in March 2014. Photo: ReutersPremium
A file photo of a Germanwings Airbus A320 at the Berlin airport in March 2014. Photo: Reuters

Berlin: An Airbus A320 crash in southern France may have claimed the lives of all 154 people on board, in what would be the worst air accident on French soil in decades.

Germanwings Flight 9525 operated by the low-cost subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa AG went down in the Digne region about an hour north of Marseille en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, Germany, according to German air-traffic control authorities. Wreckage has been sighted, and French President Francois Hollande said there are unlikely to be any survivors.

“This is a tragedy that has happened on French soil," Hollande said in Paris. “We need to show all support in the face of this drama."

The crash is likely to be the most fatal in at least three decades in France and is the first for Germanwings. The A320 single-aisle jet is Airbus’s most popular model, and is an industry workhorse used on shorter distances. The planes are generally operated with about 150 passengers or slightly more in low-cost variants. There were 154 people on board the plane, including crew, according to German air-traffic authorities, which said the plane went down around 10:37 a.m. local time.

Germanwings operates Deutsche Lufthansa’s European routes outside of the German carrier’s main Frankfurt and Munich hubs. The move was designed for Lufthansa to better compete against budget carriers in Europe. Lufthansa, like its European peers, has come under pressure to lower costs as more people opt for no-frills airlines on shorter distances.

Rugged terrain

The plane went down in rugged terrain, according to Hollande, who is coordinating a crisis response with German chancellor Angela Merkel. The actual crash site is at a higher altitude in the Le Vernet, near Prads-Haute-Bleone. Firemen and rescue teams are reaching the area, which is about 58 miles northwest of Nice and 25 miles west of the Italian border, in a region of Provence popular with hikers and campers in the summer.

Radar images from Meteo-France showed no showers in the area at 10:30am, minutes before the reported crash time. A weather station in Seyne, less than 10 kilometres north of reported crash site, measured winds of 3 kilometres per hour at the time with gusts up to 9.7 kilometres per hour, a light breeze on the Beaufort scale.

Dark hour

Airbus said it’s focusing “all efforts" on assessing the situation, and that it’s been informed about an accident that involves one of the Toulouse, France-based products. The A320 aircraft is by far Airbus’s most widely flown model, and the aircraft has been popular with carriers around the world because it serves a key segment of the market and is equipped with advanced technologies such as fly-by-wire controls.

Germanwings plans to hold a press conference at about 3 p.m. in Cologne to provide an update. At Dusseldorf airport, where the plane was due to land shortly before noon, local crisis-response teams were on standby to assist relatives.

“As soon as definite information is available, we shall inform the media immediately," the airline said.

Airbus dropped as much as 3.1% in Paris trading, while Lufthansa fell as much as 6% in Frankfurt.

Lufthansa chief executive officer Carsten Spohr said in a message that the company doesn’t yet know what happened, though that “if our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa." Bloomberg

—With assistance from Phil Serafino, Mark Deen and Rudy Ruitenberg in Paris.

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Updated: 25 Mar 2015, 01:31 AM IST
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