Ethiopian Airlines plane crash: Lebanon rules out terror act
An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people, including 54 Lebanese, on board crashed into the Mediterranean sea early Monday shortly after taking off from Beirut airport and witnesses reported seeing a fireball in the sky. Police ruled out terrorism and said the crash was likely weather-related. Some reports said the aircraft was likely struck by a thunderbolt. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman also said he did not think the plane had been brought down deliberately. "As of now, a sabotage act is unlikely. The investigation will uncover the cause," Suleiman was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Ethiopian Airlines's safety record is good and the last time its plane was involved in an accident was in 1996. According to AFP, Beirut has seen heavy rain and lightning since Sunday.
The Boeing 737-800 took off minutes after 2:30 a.m. for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said Works and Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi. "The weather undoubtedly was very bad," Aridi said. According to him, the plane went down 3.5 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.
Helicopters and naval ships were scrambled to find the plane. Over 20 bodies were recovered near the crash site, Aridi said afternoon.
The plane was carrying 90 people, including 83 passengers and 7 crew. Aridi identified the passengers as 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebanese origin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and two Britons of Lebanese origin.