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Searchers find plane crash debris

Undersea robots have found bodies, engines and parts of the Air France airliner that crashed into the Atlantic two years ago - but they are yet to locate the black box flight recorders, French officials have said.

Victims' families cautiously welcomed the surprise announcement after nearly two years of fruitless efforts to determine what caused the crash. But investigators have said that without the recorders, the reason may never be known.

All 228 people on the Airbus A330-200 were killed when the flight, en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, plunged into the ocean on June 1, 2009, after running into an intense high-altitude thunderstorm.

The French air accident investigation agency BEA said a team on board the expedition ship Alucia using underwater robots "has located pieces of an aircraft... in the past 24 hours".

And French transport minister Thierry Mariani said that "bodies have been located".

Fifty bodies were found during the first phase of the search, along with more than 600 pieces of the plane scattered on the sea. No bodies or debris have been found since.

"This fourth search campaign allowed us to locate motors, landing gear, wing parts, which is a very positive sign because at last we will be able, perhaps, to find out the truth," Mr Mariani said.

The BEA confirmed the black boxes have not been located, but a spokeswoman said: "I hope to be able to announce that (discovery) in the coming weeks."

The debris was found 12,000ft below the surface and it is far from clear whether the flight recorders, even if they are found, would still be intact after nearly two years under such conditions.

But Jean-Baptiste Audosset, who lost his partner in the crash, said the announcement of the latest discoveries offers "at last a bit of hope".

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