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Missing EgyptAir Plane Was Damaged And Lost, French President Says


French President Francois Hollande says that the missing EgyptAir plane is, quote, "damaged and lost." We are tracking news of EgyptAir Flight 804, which vanished from radar this morning. It was headed from Paris to Cairo with 66 people on board. That number includes passengers and crew, we're told. And we're hearing the latest this morning from Paris and also from Cairo. NPR's Eleanor Beardsley is on the line from Paris.

Tarek El-Tablawy is on the line from Cairo. Welcome to you both. And, Eleanor, let me start with you. What exactly did President Hollande say about this plane?

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Well, he said, we regret to say that the EgyptAir flight MS804 has been damaged and lost. And he used an expression - it's a French expression. When a plane crashes over water, they don't use the word crash. It's another word, and that's the word he used. So basically, he said it in a gentle way without using the word crash. But he confirmed - well, he said that it crashed over the sea.

KELLY: A lot of confusion still at this point...


KELLY: ...Of course, over what exactly has happened. And the president of France there, as all of us, being very careful with his wording, since we don't know what happened at this point. Tell us, in Paris, what are the key questions that people are trying to answer?

BEARDSLEY: Well, right, Hollande also emphasized that there - no one knew why this plane disappeared. And no hypothesis could be ruled out at this point. So, of course, in the back of everyone's minds is terrorism because we've just, you know, last year, had two attacks in France. The Brussels Airport was just attacked. So people are talking about the security at Charles de Gaulle Airport.

But I can tell you that after all of these attacks, and even before, it's a major European - or a major world-hub airport. The security is huge there. It's intense - you know, cameras, soldiers, you know, facial recognition technology. So - but as the analysts are saying, no security is 100 percent sure. And this plane, you know, it came from Cairo before it took off from Paris to go back to Cairo.

And it was on the tarmac only an hour and a half. And so anything can happen to these planes. It had been in Tunis before. It had been in Eritrea. So people are looking at what - who could've possibly come in contact with this plane. And this is all being talked about right now. But no one has any idea.

KELLY: Sure, and flights are still going in and out of Charles de Gaulle this morning?

BEARDSLEY: Of course.

KELLY: Of course. OK, let me turn to Cairo where that plane was headed. Tarek El-Tablawy of Bloomberg, tell us what questions are being asked there in Cairo today.

TAREK EL-TABLAWY, BYLINE: Essentially, more of the same that are being asked elsewhere. I mean, they should really - I mean, officials here are being very cautious about how they refer to the incident. They're saying the missing plane or the plane that disappeared. You know, there's really nothing that's conclusive that's been put forward as of yet. But I think, you know...

KELLY: I was going to say, unfortunately, officials there have a lot of recent experience with airline incidents. There was that Russian passenger jet that blew up after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh. Also an EgyptAir flight that was hijacked and taken to Cypress earlier just this year, and now this. Does that point to certain questions that as the investigation gets going there in Egypt that they will be asking?

EL-TABLAWY: Well, I think, you know, obviously the concerns are that, you know, if this does turn out to be an incident of terrorism that, you know, obviously where did it first, you know, start out? If it becomes an issue - and this is all very hypothetical at this point, obviously - that it was, you know, security lapse somewhere in Egypt or in one of the other points from where it landed, you know, let's say Tunis, it raises a lot of issues.

I mean, you know, Cairo security airport had been stepped up. Or security across the Egyptian airports had really been stepped up following the Metrojet crash in October. If it does turn out that there's something that started here, then, obviously, there's going to be a lot more finger-pointing. And it's going to have some - potentially some major economic implications for the country.

KELLY: And just quickly, Tarek, can you paint us a picture of what's happening at Cairo Airport this morning?

EL-TABLAWY: They set up an area, a nearby hall, for the families, you know, for where people can gather if they need assistance. The prime minister was there earlier. I believe he still is there. And the civil aviation minister is still there. The Egyptian National Security Council just met with the president heading the Council. So they're really, I mean, it's just nonstop attempts to find out what's going on.

KELLY: OK. Thanks to you, Tarek El-Tablawy of Bloomberg News, speaking to us there from Cairo. And NPR's Eleanor Beardsley on the line from Paris. We will be checking in with both Cairo and Paris and with aviation experts all morning. More on this EgyptAir Flight 804. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.