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EgyptAir Plane Crashed After Vanishing From Radar: Officials

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CAIRO — Egyptian aviation officials say an EgyptAir flight which went missing early Thursday during a flight from Paris to Cairo with 66 passengers and crew on board has crashed.

Egyptian military aircraft were searching for the Airbus A320, which the airline said disappeared from radar at 2:45 a.m. local time when it was flying at 37,000 feet and 16 kilometres after it entered Egyptian airspace.

The 56 passengers include one Canadian, 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, one Briton, two Iraqis, one Kuwaiti, one Saudi, one Sudanese, one Chadian, one Portuguese and one Algerian. The airline said a child and two babies were among the passengers.

Global Affairs Canada said it was "aware of the possibility that a Canadian may have been on board the flight'' and that the department was "monitoring the situation closely.''

The flight path of EgyptAir flight MS804 from Paris to Cairo is seen on a flight tracking screen May 19, 2016. (Courtesy via Reuters)

The statement added that Canadian officials in Cairo and Paris are working with local authorities to confirm this information.

Egypt's state-run newspaper Al-Ahram quoted an airport official as saying the pilot did not send a distress call, and that last contact with the plane was made 10 minutes before it disappeared from radar. It did not identify the official.

The Paris airport authority and the French civil aviation authority would not immediately comment.

Queries about the missing plane sent out to the U.S. Federal Aviation Agency were not returned early Thursday.

French president Francois Hollande spoke with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on the phone and agreed to "closely co-operate to establish as soon as possible the circumstances'' in which the EgyptAir flight disappeared, according to a statement issued in Paris.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said no scenario could be ruled out at the moment as for what caused the plane to disappear. France, he told RTL radio, was "ready'' to join the search operation if Egyptian authorities requested his country's assistance.

There was one Canadian on board an EgyptAir flight that crashed early Thursday. (Photo: Getty)

Around 15 relatives of passengers on board the missing flight have arrived at Cairo airport. Airport authorities brought doctors to the scene after several distressed family members collapsed.

Neither France's Foreign Ministry nor Interior Ministry would comment on the disappearance or on whether it could have been an attack.

France remains under a state of emergency after Islamic extremist attacks killed 130 people in a spree of attacks in November claimed by the extremist Islamic State group.

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 Defence 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.

Previous incidents

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 at Egyptian airports after a Russian passenger plane crashed in Sinai last October, killing all 224 people on board. Moscow said it was brought down by an explosive device, and a local branch of the Islamic State 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.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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