Ethiopian Airlines jet crashes after taking off from Beirut

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 85 passengers on board crashed into the Mediterranean sea shortly after taking off from Beirut international airport in the early hours of Monday, airport sources said. The plane, said to be a Boeing (BA.N) 737 by one source, disappeared off the radar some five minutes after takeoff.

About 50 passengers were Lebanese nationals, most of the others were Ethiopians, the sources said. There were thought to be seven crew members.

The plane took off shortly after its scheduled time of 3:10 a.m. (0010 GMT), flying south-west, the sources said.

Ethiopian Airlines’ website shows it has a flight from Beirut to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa around that time, operating a Boeing 737. The airline could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to one source, residents on the coast saw a plane on fire crashing.

Senior Lebanese officials headed to Rafik Hariri International Airport after news of the crash. The plane had flown in from Addis Ababa earlier in the night, the sources said.

Hundreds of Ethiopians work as domestic helpers in Lebanon.

(Reporting by Nadim Ladki; editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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