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Page last updated at 06:57 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 07:57 UK

Ocean search finds plane debris

Debris spotted by planes 650km (400 miles) off Brazil's coast belongs to a missing French airliner, Brazilian and French officials have confirmed.

A search plane saw a band of wreckage in a 5km (3 mile) strip, Brazil's Defence Minister Nelson Jobim said.

A Brazilian navy ship is expected to arrive in the area shortly to begin the task of recovering wreckage.

Flight AF 447 was heading from Rio to Paris with 228 people on board when it was lost early on Monday.

France is to hold religious ceremonies to remember the missing, while three days of national mourning have been declared in Brazil.

Late on Tuesday, Mr Jobim told reporters in Rio de Janeiro he had no doubt the debris was from the Air France jet.

He gave few details of the wreckage, saying only that it included metallic and non-metallic pieces.

On Wednesday, senior French military official Capt Christophe Prazuck confirmed the discovery.

TIMELINE
An Air France Airbus A330-200 believed to be the missing plane - archive image from AirTeam Images
Flight AF 447 left Rio at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday
Airbus A330-200 carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew
Contact lost 0130 GMT
Missed scheduled landing at 1110 local time (0910 GMT) in Paris

"While formal confirmation must still be obtained by recovering debris and carrying out technical analysis, there is no longer any room for doubt," Capt Prazuck told Agence France-Presse news agency.

An aeroplane seat, an orange buoy and signs of fuel have been spotted in the ocean.

Recording devices

If it is confirmed that all 228 people on Flight AF 447 are dead, it will be the worst loss of life in Air France's history.

"The last bit of hope that we had no longer exists," said Aldair Gomes, whose son was a passenger on the plane.

"Before, a lot of us were hoping that the plane could have landed on an island or something like that, but no more."

The first Brazilian naval vessel is due to arrive in the zone where the debris was found on Wednesday morning. The navy says the weather in the area is poor.

It is hoped that the ship will be able to recover wreckage that will give some clue as to why the plane fell from the sky.

Three merchant vessels are already in the area after being diverted to help with the operation.

Search teams are hoping to locate the plane's cockpit voice and data recorders, which will give the clearest information about what happened.

But Mr Jobim warned that recovering the devices could be difficult.

"It could be at a depth of 2,000m or 3,000m [6,500ft-9,800ft] in that area of the ocean," he said.

Our only certainty is that the plane did not send out any distress call
Francois Fillon
French prime minister

The recorders send signals for about 30 days.

The US has despatched specialist radar equipment to the area to hunt for the recorder, and France is also sending a research ship equipped with two mini-submarines.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the teams were "in a race against the clock".

He told parliament that the cause of the plane's loss had still to be established.

"Our only certainty is that the plane did not send out any distress call but regular automatic alerts for three minutes indicating the failure of all systems," he said.

Experts remain puzzled that there were no radio reports from the Airbus and they say that such a modern aircraft would have had to suffer multiple traumas to plunge into the sea, the BBC's Adam Mynott reports from Paris.

Most of the missing people are Brazilian or French but they include a total of 32 nationalities. Five Britons and three Irish citizens are among them.

Flight of AF 447



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