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French navy ship to join EgyptAir search

Do Not UseDo Not Use 27/05/2016
Egyptians light candles during a candlelight vigil: Hundreds of people gathered in Cairo for a candlelit vigil for the victims on Thursday © AP Hundreds of people gathered in Cairo for a candlelit vigil for the victims on Thursday

A French naval ship specialising in underwater searches is on its way to help find the flight recorders of an EgyptAir plane that crashed last week.

Flight MS804's possibly final movements © BBC Flight MS804's possibly final movements

On Thursday, Egypt's chief investigator said the search had narrowed to about 5km (3.1 miles) in the Mediterranean.

map © BBC map

This was based on a signal from the plane's emergency beacon, but officials now say the signal was received on the day of the crash and is not new.

There were 66 people on board when the Airbus A320 crashed on 19 May.

The plane was flying overnight from Paris to Cairo when it vanished from Greek and Egyptian radar screens, apparently without having sent a distress call.

France's air accident investigation agency, the BEA, confirmed a naval oceanographic research ship, Laplace, is heading for the crash site.

In a statement, it said the ship was due to reach the crash area on Sunday or Monday, carrying a long-range acoustic system able to detect signals from the black box.

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Egypt's chief investigator, Ayman al-Moqadem, had said on Thursday that a signal detected was from a beacon situated in the rear of the cabin on the plane which transmits its location.

However, other officials on Friday told journalists that the signal was received on the day of the crash, and that there had been no other signals since.

"There has been nothing since day one," one official close to the investigation told Reuters.

On Thursday, hundreds of people gathered in Cairo for a candlelit vigil for the victims of the crash.

Among those on board MS804 were 30 Egyptians, 15 French citizens, two Iraqis, two Canadians and citizens from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Chad, Portugal, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

They included a boy and two babies as well as seven crew and three security staff.

Debris from the plane has been recovered from the sea, some 290km (180 miles) north of the Egyptian port city of Alexandria.

Egypt's president has said that "all scenarios are possible", but Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said last Friday that a terrorist attack was more likely than a technical failure.

Greece's defence minister said last week that, after leaving Greek airspace and before it disappeared from Greek radar, the plane abruptly turned 90 degrees left and then 360 degrees to the right, dropping from 11,300m (37,000 ft) to 4,600m (15,000ft) and then 3,000m (10,000ft).

The Aviation Herald also reported that the plane sent a series of warnings indicating that smoke had been detected on board three minutes before it disappeared.

However, an Egyptian aviation official denied the plane had deviated from its route, and that there had been reports of smoke.

Sources from Egypt's investigation team told Reuters and Associated Press on Friday that no emergency signals had been detected from the plane since the day it disappeared. Such signals are too weak to transmit from underwater, although signals from the flight recorders may yet be detected.

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