A PASSENGER plane which vanished from radar while flying over West Africa on Thursday afternoon has crashed with 116 people on board, according to multiple reports.
According to BBC News, Air Algerie Flight AH 5017 lost contact with air traffic control almost an hour after taking off from Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou at 1:17am local time (11:17am AEST).
The plane, believed to be a McDonnell Douglas MD-83 operated by Air Algerie and chartered from Swiftair, was scheduled to land in Algiers at 5:10am (3:10pm AEST).
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It never arrived.
Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal has been cited speaking with local radio, confirming that the plane disappeared near Gao in Mali, 500 kilometres from the Algerian border.
Shortly before losing contact, the crew were reportedly given permission to detour from their normal route due to storm activity.
Earlier, there were conflicting reports suggesting that the passenger jet came down near Niamey, the capital of Niger, which would have meant a significant diversion to the east.
Four French military aircraft, two known to be based in North Africa, have since been tasked to search for the wreckage.
It’s understood 110 passengers of various nationalities, many believed to be French, and six Spanish crew members were on board.
News.com.au has quoted Burkina Faso’s transport minister as saying 50 French nationals were among those on the flight, along with 24 Burkina Faso nationals, six Lebanese, five Canadians, four Algerians, two Luxemburg nationals, one Swiss, one Nigerian, one Cameroonian and one Malian.
The plane had been missing for several hours before news of its disappearance was made public.
It’s not known whether there are any survivors.