Germanwings said its Airbus A320 aircraft that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday started descending one minute after reaching its cruising height and continued losing altitude for eight minutes. The airliner was flying from Barcelona, Spain, to German city of Dusseldorf when it disappeared from the radars in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in southern France.
"The aircraft's contact with French radar, French air traffic controllers ended at 10.53 am at an altitude of about 6,000 feet. The plane then crashed," Lufthansa unit Germanwings' Managing Director Thomas Winkelmann told reporters.
A rescue helicopter has reportedly reached the site of the crash, in a remote mountain area.
A spokeswoman for the northwestern German town of Haltern am See said on Tuesday that there was reason to believe that 16 school children and two teachers from the town were on the Germanwings airplane that crashed.
French President Francois Hollande said the 150 people killed in Tuesday’s plane crash in the French Alps included Germans, Spaniards and”probably” Turks.
None of the 150 people aboard a Germanwings plane that crashed into the French Alps survived, France’s junior transport minister said.
“There are no survivors,” Alain Vidalies said, adding that the crash happened shortly after the pilot issued a distress signal in good weather.
“A distress call was registered at 10:47. The distress signal showed the plane was at 5,000 feet in an abnormal situation,” Vidalies said.
The plane crashed at the foot of Prads-Haute-Blone, between Digne-les-Bains and Barcelonnette (in the French Alps), two helicopters of the gendarmerie confirmed to the directorate general of civil aviation, according to The Independent.
In a statement on Twitter, Germanwings said: "We have recently become aware of media reports speculating on an incident though we still do not have any own confirmed information.”
“As soon as definite information is available, we shall inform the media immediately,” it said.
The plane disappeared from the radar at 09.39 local time. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the causes of the crash were not yet known.
“We of course don’t know the reasons for the crash,” Valls told media persons. “We obviously fear that the 142 to 150 passengers and crew died, given the conditions of this crash.
Valls said he had activated the ministerial crisis cell to help coordinate the aftermath of the crash.
French President Francois Hollande said, “The conditions of the crash of the Airbus has 320 suggests that there were no survivors among the 148 people on board,” according to Le Monde.
“The accident is produced in a particularly difficult area to access and it is likely that there is a number of German victims,” he said.
Debris of an airliner has been found in the Barcelonnette region and significant emergency resources had been ‘mobilised’, Valls said. The French civil aviation authority said the crew had sent a distress signal at 10.47 am -- 46 minutes after takeoff from Barcelona.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was going to the French Alpine region on Wednesday. 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.
"I myself will travel there tomorrow to get an impression and speak with the local authorities," she told reporters in Berlin.
Merkel described the news as "a shock which has plunged us into deep mourning in Germany, France and Spain."
"What concerns me now is the extent of the suffering, which this catastrophe has brought to so many people. My thoughts and condolences, and those of the entire government, go out to the people who have lost their lives, including many compatriots," Merkel said.