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25 Jan, 2010 10:06

Ethiopian Airlines jet crashes off Lebanon coast, no survivors

An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people onboard has crashed into the Mediterranean, shortly after taking-off from Beirut, Lebanon, in stormy weather.

At least 34 bodies have been recovered, and a search for survivors is underway.

Eighty-three passengers and seven crewmembers were on board the Boeing 737-800, Lebanese Transport Minister Ghazi al-Aridi told the news conference at the airport.

“[The crash site] has been identified as 3.5 kilometres west of the village of Na'ameh,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The minister identified the passengers as 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebanese origin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and two British of Lebanese origin.

Officials say the Addis Ababa-bound jet disappeared from radar screens shortly after takeoff from Beirut airport.

Eyewitness Khaled Naser was quoted by AP as saying that he saw fire falling into the sea around 02:30 (00:30 GMT) one kilometer away from the shore.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known, but Lebanon has been hit with bad weather since Sunday night, with thunder, lightning and pouring rain.

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said terrorism was not suspected to have caused the crash.