VIDEO-Sinai plane crash: No survivors on Russian airliner KGL9268 - BBC News

Image copyrightEPAImage caption People waiting for their loved ones at Pulkovo airport were told the news of the crash

A Russian airliner has crashed in central Sinai killing all 224 people on board, Egyptian officials have said.

The Airbus A-321 had just left the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, bound for the Russian city of St Petersburg.

Wreckage was found in the Hasana area and bodies removed, along with the plane's "black box". An official described a "tragic scene" with bodies of victims still strapped to seats.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared Sunday a day of mourning.

He has ordered an official investigation into the crash, and for rescue teams to be sent to the crash site.

Egyptian officials said 214 of the passengers were Russian and three Ukrainian.

A passenger list published by the Russian Association of Tour Operators showed that 10 of those on board were under the age of 10, with one only 10 months old.

A commission headed by Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov is to leave for Egypt on Saturday afternoon.

A criminal case has also been opened against the airline, Kogalymavia, for "violation of rules of flight and preparation for them", Russia's Ria news agency reported.

Oksana Golovin, a spokeswoman for the airline, said the company did not see any grounds to blame human error.

She told a press conference that the pilot had 12,000 hours of flying experience. Kogalymavia did not yet know what caused the crash, she said, but the plane was fully serviced.

Police are reported to be searching the company's offices.

Russian authorities say the plane was carrying 217 passengers, 138 of them women and 17 children aged between 2 and 17. Most were tourists. There were seven crew on board.

Egyptian officials investigating the scene said there were no survivors.

A centre to help relatives of the passengers has been set up at Pulkovo airport, Tass news agency quoted St Petersburg city officials as saying.

Sudden altitude loss

Initially there were conflicting reports about the fate of the plane, some suggesting it had disappeared over Cyprus.

But the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail confirmed in a statement that a "Russian civilian plane... crashed in the central Sinai".

Media captionMikael Robertsson from flight tracking service Flight Radar 24: ''This was something more than a planned diversion''

Officials say up to 50 ambulances have been sent to the scene.

Access to the area is strictly controlled by the military and the terrain is difficult, correspondents say.

One official told Reuters news agency that at least 100 bodies had been found.

"I now see a tragic scene," the official said. "A lot of dead on the ground and many died whilst strapped to their seats."

The plane split in two, with one part burning up and the other crashing into a rock, he added.

The Egyptian cabinet said in a statement that flight KGL9268 left Sharm el-Sheikh at 05:58 local time (03:58 GMT)

It added that the aircraft went off the radar 22 minutes after take-off.

The flight had been due into St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport at 09:10 GMT.

Image copyrightReuters

Kogalymavia airline

Egypt's civilian aviation ministry said the plane had been at an altitude of 9,450m (31,000ft) when it disappeared.

Live flight tracking service Flight Radar 24's Mikail Robertson confirmed the altitude.

He told the BBC that the plane started to drop very fast, losing 1,500 metres in one minute before coverage was lost.

Sergei Izdolsky, an official with Russia's air transport agency, said the plane had been due to make contact with air traffic controllers in Cyprus half an hour after take-off, but did not do so.

Soon after, he said, the plane disappeared from Cypriot radar screens.

Aviation official Ayman al-Mukadem said the pilot had reported technical difficulties before the plane went missing, the Associated Press reported.

Local weather observations in the vicinity of the rescue scene suggest relatively benign conditions.

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