Update (9:06 AM EST): Algerian airliner confirmed to have crashed
An Air Algerie flight that went missing en route from Burkina Faso to Algiers has crashed, an Algerian aviation official told Reuters on Thursday.
"I can confirm that it has crashed," the official said, declining to give details of where the plane was or what caused the accident.
Earlier (9:03 AM EST): A passenger jet carrying an estimated 116 people that left the west African nation of Burkina Faso headed for the Algerian capitol of Algiers lost contact with ground control radar early Thursday morning .
The exact flight path of the plane—reported as Air Algérie flight AH5017—that left the city Ouagadougou to Algiers wasn't immediately clear, but its being reported that French fighterjets have been dispatched to look for the plane.
Severe weather was reported in the region and unconfirmed reports indicate the plane may have been re-routed before it ultimately lost contact.
Burkina Faso Transport Minister Jean Bertin Ouedrago, according to Reuters, said that the flight that was en route over Mali had asked to change route at 0138 GMT because of a storm in the area.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal reportedly told Algerian radio: "The plane disappeared at Gao (in Mali), 500km (300 miles) from the Algerian border."
"Air Algeria informs that the air navigation services had their last contact with flight 5017 AH ensuring Ouagadougou Algiers bond date 24 July at 1 hour 55 minutes GMT, 50 minutes after takeoff," the airline said in a statement. "In accordance with company procedures, Air Algeria has started its emergency plan."
Immediate connections, despite the lack of verifiable information, were being made with last week's Malaysian Airlines disaster over Ukraine when Flight MH17 was allegedly shot down and resulted in the death of all 298 people on board.
Ougadougou is over two thousand miles south of Algiers in a nearly straight that line passes directly over Mali, a nation where civil unrest and political destabilization followed the NATO invasion of Libya and overthrow of Muhamar Ghaddafi in 2011. It's possible that the plane was further east, over Niger, however, when it lost contact.
According to Reuters:
[The Algerian state news agency APS] said authorities lost contact with flight AH 5017 an hour after it took off from Burkina Faso, although other officials gave other timings, adding to confusion about the fate of the flight and where it might be.
Spanish private airline company Swiftair confirmed it had no contact with its MD-83 aircraft operated by Air Algerie, which it said was carrying 110 passengers and six crew.
The company said in a notice posted on its website that the aircraft took off from Burkina Faso at 0117 GMT (2117 ET) and was supposed to land in Algiers at 0510 GMT but never reached its destination.
An Algerian aviation official said the last contact Algerian authorities had with a missing Air Algerie aircraft carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algiers was at 0155 GMT when it was flying over Gao, Mali.
Aviation authorities in Burkina say they handed the flight to the control tower in Niamey, Niger, at 1:38 am (0138 GMT). They said last contact with the flight was just after 4:30 a.m. (0330 GMT).