SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) - An Air France jet carrying 228 people from Rio de Janeiro to Paris lost contact with air traffic controllers over the Atlantic Ocean, an Air France official said Monday. Brazil immediately began a search mission off its northeastern coast.
Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, was carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew members, company spokeswoman Brigitte Barrand said. The flight left Rio on Sunday at 7 p.m. local time.
The plane disappeared about 190 miles (300 kilometers) northeast of the coastal Brazilian city of Natal, near the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, a Brazilian air force spokesman said. The air force began a search began Monday morning near Fernando de Noronha, he added, speaking on condition of anonymity in keeping with air force policy.
The region is about 1,500 miles northeast of Rio.
An official with France's transport agency said contact with the plane was lost at 0220 GMT Monday (10:20 p.m. EDT Sunday). The official was not authorized to be named according to agency policy. Barrand said the airline installed an information center at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport for the families of those aboard.
"Air France regrets to announce that it is without news from Air France flight 447 flying from Rio to Paris," she said. "Air France shares the emotion and worry of the families concerned."
The flight was scheduled to arrive in Paris at 0915 GMT (5:15 a.m. EDT), according to the airport.
Airbus declined to comment until more details emerge.
France's minister in charge of transport, Jean-Louis Borloo, said there was a "real pessimism at this hour" about the fate of the aircraft.
"We can fear the worst," he said on Europe-1 radio.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his "extreme worry" and sent ministers to Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport to monitor the situation.
Associated Press reporters Emma Vandore, Laurent Lemel and
Laurent Pirot reported from Paris
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