About 150 people are feared dead after an Airbus A320 aircraft operated by Lufthansa-owned budget airliner Germanwings reportedly crashed in France en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf.
At around 11.40 GMT, Lufthansa tweeted: "We do not yet know what has happened to flight 4U 9525. If our fears are confirmed, this is a dark day for Lufthansa. We hope to find survivors."
According to media reports the last words from the cockpit were: “Emergency, emergency.” The plane, which took off from Barcelona airport at 8.55GMT this morning, issued a distress call less than an hour into the flight at 9.47GMT and soon after that disappeared from radars.
A spokesman for France's DGAC aviation authority said the airliner crashed near the town of Barcelonnette about 100km north of the French Riviera city of Nice in a remote and sparsely populated region in the foothills of the French Alps. Debris has reportedly been spotted at the altitude of 2,000m.
Germanwings says the aircraft was carrying 144 passengers and six crew.
French President Francois Hollande said he believed none of those on board had survived. "The conditions of the accident, which have not yet been clarified, lead us to think there are no survivors."
Airbus said it was aware of reports about the crash.
"We are aware of the media reports," Airbus said on Twitter. "All efforts are now going towards assessing the situation. We will provide further information as soon as available."
The ill-fated plane was the same type as the AirAsia aircraft that crashed on 28 December last year on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore.
The results of the AirAsia accident investigation have not been revealed yet, however, the tragedy has been attributed to a combination of bad weather with possible human error or a malfunction of the aircraft’s Flight Augmentation Computer.
The Germanwings aircraft was 24 years old, owned by Lufthansa since 1991.
Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 infographic