At least 15 bodies have been recovered from the scene of the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane off the coast of Lebanon Monday, with no apparent sign of survivors among the 90 passengers and crew.
The Boeing, carrying 83 passengers and seven crew, crashed into the Mediterranean some four minutes after taking off from the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport in the capital, Transport Minister Ghazi Aridi said.
"The control tower was assisting the pilot of the plane on takeoff and suddenly lost contact for no known reason," Aridi told reporters. Weather conditions were reportedly bad when the plan went down some 3.5 kilometres west of the coastal village of Na`ameh.
Army and naval rescue units were searching for survivors alongside a United Nations Maritime Task Force, which included two German boats. "The weather is not helping us at all," a member of the rescue team said. "But we hope to find some survivors."
An Ethiopian Airlines official at the airport meanwhile said there were "no reports of survivors found." Earlier local media and Arab channels had said seven survivors had
been found. Rescuers found the 15 victims still strapped to their seats.
Army patrol boats were seen scouring the waters around the site where the plane went down.
The wife of the French ambassador to Lebanon was reported to have been on the plane.
One airport official said the plane was struck by lightning before into fell into the sea.