Voices have been heard inside the wreckage of the Russian passenger plane which crashed over central Sinai with 224 people on board, according to Egyptian search and rescue officials.
He said that the plane had split in two and that rescuers had found at least five dead children at the scene, other bodies were discovered still strapped into their seats.
The Airbus A321, operated by the Russian airline Kogalymavia, was travelling from the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to the Russian city of St Petersburg when it disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes into the flight.
Egypt’s North Sinai is home to a two-year-old Islamist insurgency. Militants linked to Islamic State have killed hundreds of soldiers and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.
According to Egyptian media, the pilot reported a technical failure shortly after take off and requested to land at a nearby airport, Sky’s Middle East Correspondent Sherine Tadros reported.
However, Mike Vivian, the former head of flight operations at the Civil Aviation Authority, told Sky News “hostile action” should not be ruled out.
“Although hostile action has been dismissed I am absolutely certain that will be one of the focuses of investigators on the ground,” he said.
The plane, with registration number KGL-9268, had been flying at an altitude of 31,000ft when contact was lost, according to Egypt’s civil aviation ministry.
Egyptian search and rescue teams have located the wreckage in the Hassana area, 22 miles (35km) south of the northern city of Arish, the ministry said.
Poor weather conditions and the remote, mountainous terrain are understood to be hindering rescue efforts. Russian aviation sources are reporting that the plane was carrying 200 adult passengers, 17 children and 7 crew members.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his condolences to the families of the victims of the crash. A statement from Egypt’s prime minister’s office said a cabinet level crisis committee would meet to deal with the crash.
Kogalymavia/Metrojet is a small airline, with only around six jets, which mainly operates Russian internal flights. The firm has had one safety incident with an aircraft on the ground in 2011 in which three people were killed.
Initially there were several conflicting reports about the fate of the plane. An Egyptian official told local media the plane was safely in Turkish airspace after briefly losing contact with air traffic controllers.There were also reports that the plane went missing in Cypriot airspace.