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Flight 4U 9525: 'Picture of horror' as 150 perish in French Alps Germanwings disaster

Agony for families after Airbus slams into Alps

By John Lichfield

It is likely that there were some British nationals on board the Germanwings flight that crashed in mysterious circumstances in the French Alps with 150 people on board, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said.

A woman believed to be living in the north west of England and her baby son were believed to be on board.

"I don't want to speculate on numbers of British nationals involved until we have completed our checks on all the passenger information," Mr Hammond said.

"However, based on the information available to us, it is sadly likely that there were some British nationals on board the flight. We are providing consular assistance and will give further help as more information becomes available."

The victims are believed to include 63 Germans and 45 Spaniards, including two babies.

The Airbus A320 sent out no distress signal before flying headlong into the side of a 9,000ft (2,743m) snow-covered peak.

None of the 144 passengers and six crew aboard the budget flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf - including a German school party of 16 pupils and two teachers - is believed to have survived the impact.

"The aircraft was pulverised," one rescue worker said. "Even the bodies are unrecognisable."

Germany's Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was flown over the area, said the crash site was "a picture of horror," adding: "The grief of the families and friends is immeasurable. We must now stand together."

Flight 4U 9525 vanished from radar screens at about 10.53am local time yesterday, 52 minutes after take-off from Barcelona. After reaching its cruising altitude, it steadily shed height for eight minutes and veered slightly off course without reporting a problem or sending a "Mayday" signal.

It emerged last night, however, that a French fighter jet had been scrambled to search for the flight during the eight minutes in which it lost height and veered off course. Officials said this was a precaution in case the Airbus had fallen victim to an act of terrorism. At this stage, there was no evidence that this was what had happened, officials said.

Rescue workers last night located one of the aircraft's two black box flight recorders. Officials said they hoped it would explain the mystery of the crash "within a few hours".

Aerial images posted on the internet showed the plane had disintegrated.

An opera house in Dusseldorf said bass baritone Oleg Bryjak was among the passengers. Christoph Meyer, director of The Deutsche Oper am Rhein, said: "We have lost a great performer and a great person in Oleg Bryjak. We are stunned."

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