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Smoke reported on EgyptAir flight

dpadpa 20/05/2016

Smoke was reportedly detected on board the doomed EgyptAir flight before it crashed into the sea, reports say.

Smoke was detected on board the EgyptAir flight that crashed over the Mediterranean with 66 people on board, according to automated messages relayed to ground stations, news reports say.

"There was a fire on board," aviation expert Tim van Beveren told Deutsche Welle.

"The system sent very clear messages. There was lavatory smoke detected," then a minute later, smoke in the avionics compartment, he said in the interview published late on Friday.

An official in the Egypt-led investigation commission denied the report.

"In his last contact with air controllers five minutes before the crash, the plane's pilot did not report anything unusual or a fire," the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to media.

"It is too early to determine the cause of the crash," he said.

The EgyptAir Airbus A320 vanished early Thursday shortly after leaving Greek airspace en route from Paris to Cairo.

The smoke signals were reportedly sent via the ACARS, or Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, which transmits short condition updates to ground stations by radio or via satellite, the Aviation Herald reported, citing three independent sources.

Body parts, luggage and airline debris were retrieved on Friday from the Mediterranean Sea around 290 kilometres north of the Egyptian coastal city of Alexandria.

Search teams were Saturday scouring the area for more debris from the jet and its two black boxes.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was to meet relatives of the 15 French victims, along with government and airline officials.

Three French aviation accident investigators and a technical expert from Toulouse-based manufacturer Airbus are currently in Cairo to join the investigation.

The airliner was flying at a height of 37,000 feet when it went missing about 45 minutes before its expected landing in Cairo.

Before disappearing from radar, data indicated the plane swerved sharply and then began to make a steep descent, the Greek defence minister said.

The likelihood that it was the victim of a terrorist attack was "far higher than the likelihood that the plane developed a technical failure", Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sherif Fathy said.

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