Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET409 (Boeing 737-800) caught fire during a fierce lightning storm and crashed into the Mediterranean sea minutes after taking off from Beirut after 2:00am local time on Monday. The flight was destined to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa. All 90 people (83 passengers and 7 crew members) on the flight are feared dead but the officials are still treating it as a rescue mission.
One witness, Abdel Mahdi Salaneh, told the BBC he saw the plane fall into the sea in flames.
“We saw a flash in the sky,” he said. “We saw a flash over the sea and it was the plane falling. The weather was really bad, it was all thunder and rain.”
There has been speculation that it was struck by lightning.
Passengers included 56 Lebanese (2 with dual British nationality) and 22 Ethiopians. Rest were from Canada, Syria, Iraq and Russia. It also included American-born wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon.
At least 34 bodies had been recovered and survivors are very unlikely. Rescue effort is still on despite little hope for survivors.
Helicopters and naval ships are continuing to search the crash site.
It is still being described as a rescue operation, although officials say that in such bad weather it is unlikely anyone will be found so long after the crash.
The United Nations peacekeeping operation in Lebanon has sent three ships and two helicopters, and a British RAF helicopter is also involved.
Lebanese soldiers are also combing nearby beaches, where pieces of the plane and debris including passenger seats, a fire extinguisher and bottles of medicine have washed up. Source: BBC
This is the first crash for Ethiopian Airlines since 1996. The airlines is considered to be safest among African airlines.