All 150 passengers and crew on board an Airbus plane operated by Germanwings are presumed dead after the aircraft crashed in the French Alps region.

Germanwings said the Flight 4U9525 plane, which was travelling from Barcelona in Spain to Dusseldorf in Germany, started descending one minute after reaching its cruising height and continued losing altitude for eight minutes on Tuesday.

“The aircraft’s contact with French radar, French air traffic controllers ended at 10.53am at an altitude of about 6,000 feet (approximately 1,825 metres). The plane then crashed,” Lufthansa unit Germanwings’ Managing Director Thomas Winkelmann told reporters.

He said that routine maintenance of the aircraft had been performed by Lufthansa Technik on Monday.

In a live briefing, French President Francois Hollande said it was unlikely that there were survivors, adding that the area of the crash was remote.

“There were German and Turkish victims. There should be no French victims but I am not completely certain … We are in mourning,” he said. “It’s a tragedy on our soil.”

A spokesman for Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said that some 45 people travelling on the plane had Spanish surnames.

In a brief press conference on Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would travel on Wednesday to the French Alpine region where the plane crashed.

She said her foreign and transport ministers, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Alexander Dobrindt, were heading to the area, in a mountain range known as “Les Trois Eveches,” later on Tuesday.

‘A loud noise, then nothing’

The owner of a camping site in Alpes-de-Hautes-Provence said he heard the plane come down.

“There was a loud noise and then suddenly nothing. At first I thought it came from fighter jets that often hold drills in the area,” Pierre Polizzi told Al Jazeera.

“The plane crashed just 2km from here, high on a mountain,” Polizzi, owner of Camping Rioclar, said.

Eric Ciotti, the head of the regional council, said French search-and-rescue teams were headed to the crash site at Meolans-Revels.

French TV reported that 240 local firefighters and three police squadrons were mobilised for the rescue effort.

The single-aisle A320 typically seats 150 to 180 people.

“Germanwings has outstanding safety records. This is the first fatal incident involving the the airline,” Al Jaeeera’s Dominique Kane, reporting from Berlin, said. “Airbus, the manufacturer of the plane, has serious concerns about the incident and wants to find out what actually has happened.”

Germanwings is the low-cost subsidiary of Germany’s Lufthansa airline.


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