Germanwings plane crashes in the Alps with more than 140 people on board

Search-and-rescue teams struggle to reach the remote, snow-covered crash site of Germanwings passeng

Search-and-rescue teams struggle to reach the remote, snow-covered crash site of Germanwings passenger plane - Credit: AP

French president Francois Hollande has said there are unlikely to be any survivors after a passenger jet carrying 148 people crashed in the French Alps.

School children mourn for their school mates in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern. 16

School children mourn for their school mates in front of the Joseph-Koenig Gymnasium in Haltern. 16 school children and two teachers from Haltern are understood to be among the victims - Credit: AP

The Germanwings passenger jet had been travelling from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, French officials said.

Eric Ciotti, the head of the regional council, said search and rescue teams are heading to the crash site at Meolans-Revels.

The French newspaper La Provence, citing aviation officials, said the Airbus plane carried at least 142 passengers, two pilots and four flight attendants.

In a live briefing, Mr Hollande said the area of the crash was remote and it was not clear whether anyone on the ground had been hurt.

Rescue workers and gendarme gather in Seyne-les-Alpes

Rescue workers and gendarme gather in Seyne-les-Alpes - Credit: AP

He added that it was probable that a number of the victims are German.

“It’s a tragedy on our soil,” he said, adding he would be speaking shortly with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

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Germanwings is a lower-cost unit of Lufthansa, Germany’s biggest airline.

It has been operating since 2002 as part of traditional national carriers’ response to the rise of European budget airlines. It serves mainly European destinations.

The area where the plane went down is near a popular ski resort.

The German federal bureau of aircraft accident investigation is sending three people to France to join the investigation, spokesman Germout Freitag said.

French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, the country’s top security official, is heading to the crash site.

French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said debris from the crash has been located, with the plane having crashed at an altitude of 6,500ft in the Alps.

He said the plane sent out a distress signal at 10.45am local time (9.45am GMT). The passenger manifest is currently being verified.

Mr Brandet told BFM television he expects “an extremely long and extremely difficult” search and rescue operation because of the area’s remoteness.

Captain Benoit Zeisser of the Digne-le-Bains police said conditions had been cloudy, but the cloud ceiling was not low and there did not appear to have been turbulence.

He told a French TV network he could not comment yet on the state of the debris site.