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Updated: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:11:52 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Air Algerie Flight AH5017 disappears from radar over North Africa



An Air Algeria plane lands at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Authorities say they have lost contact with one of their planes, carrying over 100 people, over northern Africa. The Canadian Press

An Air Algeria plane lands at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Authorities say they have lost contact with one of their planes, carrying over 100 people, over northern Africa. The Canadian Press

An Air Algerie jet carrying 116 people has disappeared from radar during a flight from Burkina Faso in Africa to Algiers, the official Algerian news agency said today.

Air navigation services lost track of the plane 50 minutes after takeoff early Thursday, last sited at 2 a.m. local time, the agency said. Burkina Faso's transport minister said the flight crew had asked to change route due to a storm about 30 minutes before contact was lost.  

Swiftair, the Spanish private airline company that owns the plane, said there were 110 passengers and six crew members on board the McDonnell Douglas MD-83 jet at the time. Air Algerie said 50 people on the passenger list are French. 

"In keeping with procedures, Air Algerie has launched its emergency plan," the Algerian Press Service quoted Air Algerie as saying.

The flight path of Flight AH5017 from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African nation of Burkina Faso, to Algiers was not immediately clear. The flight typically takes around four hours.

Said Chitour, an Algiers-based freelance reporter, said some of the passengers’ loved ones have gathered at the airport to await any news.

The search for the plane will be difficult, Chitour said, as it was set to cross a large swath of the desert.

“It’s a very tough area where there’s nothing … it’s the middle of nowhere, really,” Chitour told CBC News Network.

On the ground, there has been lots of speculation, including a report that the plane had crashed in southwest Niger, but Chitour said the airline hasn’t said anything about the plane’s fate.

Ougadougou is in a nearly straight line south of Algiers, passing over Mali where unrest continues in the north.

However, a senior French official said it was unlikely that fighters in Mali had weaponry that could shoot down a plane. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak for attribution, said the fighters only have shoulder-fired weapons that could not hit an aircraft at cruising altitude.

In February, the Algerian military lost contact with one of its Hercules transport planes before it crashed into a mountain east of Algiers, killing 76 people.

Correction : An earlier version of this story based on Reuters information identified the missing jet as an Airbus A320. It is, in fact, a McDonnell Douglas MD-83. (Jul 24, 2014 6:52 AM)

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