Sunday 18 August 2019

Crash plane's cockpit voice recorder damaged

People gathered to lay flowers in memory of the plane crash victims at Dvortsovaya Square in St Petersburg (AP)
People gathered to lay flowers in memory of the plane crash victims at Dvortsovaya Square in St Petersburg (AP)

The cockpit voice recorder from the Russian airliner which crashed in Egypt, killing all 224 people on board, has suffered serious damage, Russia's Interstate Air Commission has said.

In a statement posted on its website, the commission said that information from the flight's data recorder has been successfully copied and handed over to investigators, but that there was "serious mechanical damage" to the voice recorder.

The Interstate Aviation Committee is a Moscow-based organisation which oversees civil aviation in much of the former Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, the British Government said it is increasingly concerned that the Metrojet Airbus was brought down by a bomb and is suspending flights to and from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said British aviation experts are travelling to the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, where the flight which crashed on Saturday originated from, to assess security before British flights there will be allowed to leave.

No British flights were due to fly there on Wednesday.

Downing Street said: "We have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device."

The British Government's crisis committee was due to meet later.

Egypt's Islamic State group affiliate has allegedly reiterated its claim to have downed the plane.

In an audio recording circulated among militant supporters online, a speaker said the crash coincided with the anniversary of the group's pledge of allegiance to the IS group. The dates of the crash and the pledge roughly coincide according to the Islamic calendar.

Experts say the militants lack the sophisticated arms needed to shoot down a plane at cruising altitude. The speaker did not say how the militants brought down the jet.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the recording but it resembled previous statements issued by the group. The US-based Site Intelligence Group, which monitors jihadi websites, picked up the recording and circulated a translation.

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said an earlier IS claim was "propaganda" aimed at damaging Egypt's image.

In Russia, Igor Albin, deputy governor of St Petersburg, said families have so far identified the bodies of 33 of the victims, most of whom were holidaymakers from the city.

Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov said rescue teams in Egypt have expanded the search area to 15 square miles (40 sq km).

Russian officials have refrained from announcing the cause of the crash, citing the ongoing investigation.

PA Media

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