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Search Is On For Missing EgyptAir Flight 804

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The search is underway for EgyptAir Flight 804, which vanished from radars moments after entering Egyptian airspace over the Mediterranean. It was traveling from Paris to Cairo. And for more, we turn now to NPR's Emily Harris. She has just arrived in Cairo, where a news conference by the minister of civil aviation has just completed - just finished a press conference. And good morning to you, Emily.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And what did he have to say?

HARRIS: Well, he didn't have a lot of information about the plane. He had details of when the last contact was made, which was about 2:30 in the morning local time, right after it left Greek airspace. And since then, there's been no word from the plane, no sighting of it so far either. The big message that - this is the minister of civil aviation, Egypt's minister of civil aviation who's speaking - his big message is we're calling in a missing plane, and don't assume anything until we have some facts.

What they're doing to try to get some facts is searching the area around the Greek island which had the last - where it was last - had contact with the plane. They have boats out there. France is also supposed to send some assistance to search. And the minister said that they are adjusting the search and widening it as they need to based on what they're seeing on the ground. But no word of wreckage yet.

MONTAGNE: And officials are not anywhere - not in Paris, not in France, not in Egypt and not obviously in Greece - they're not ruling out anything, any cause. They're not saying that they have any indication of what a cause might be. But there in Egypt, of course, a Russian airliner crashed just after leaving Sharm el-Sheikh last year. Egyptians didn't talk about that at all for months - the authorities. So do - are Egyptians reacting pretty swiftly to this one?

HARRIS: Well, this news conference is packed with Egyptian journalists. And they keep on pressing the civil aviation minister of - why he thinks it isn't terrorism, and is it terrorism. And he is refusing to say anything but a missing plane. He says we're not denying it's terrorism. We're not assuming anything else. There are certainly other possibilities. There was the Germanwings plane that crashed in Swiss Alps - in the French Alps a year ago. It was, in the end, ruled a suicide. But you're right. Last time a plane left Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh - the Russian airliner - it was a long time, many months, before the Egyptian authorities admitted that it was terrorism.

MONTAGNE: Well, you are there at the airport. I don't believe, or I'm not sure if you've had any contact with any of the families. But what are - what is the assistance to the families? How is that being described?

HARRIS: I haven't seen any of the families. But the civil aviation minister that EgyptAir is taking care of the families that are here. They're staying at a hotel. They're being given any information that is determined, that Egypt has offered to bring families from France if they wish to come to Egypt. The majority of the passengers were Egyptian, but the second-highest number of passengers were French. And right now, it's mostly just a waiting game, waiting for information.

MONTAGNE: Right. It was quite a mixed group, also. There was a Briton, there was two Iraqis, a Kuwaiti, Saudi, Sudanese. It was quite a...

HARRIS: ...Saudian (ph), Kuwaiti, Sudanese, two Iraqis, yes.

MONTAGNE: Yeah. Very sad situation, which we will be following all this morning throughout the show. And NPR's Emily Harris is in Cairo, and thank you very much for joining us.

HARRIS: Thanks, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.