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article imageDeep-sea robot to join search for Egyptair wreck 'from Friday'

By AFP     Jun 9, 2016 in World

A research vessel with an underwater robot is set to begin searching the Mediterranean "as from Friday" for the wreck of the EgyptAir plane that crashed last month, according to the French aviation safety agency BEA.

Egypt has hired the "John Lethbridge", which is owned by the private Deep Ocean Search company, to comb the ocean floor for the Airbus A320 that went down with 66 people aboard en route from Paris to Cairo on May 19.

The ship is en route and "should arrive in the area as from Friday," BEA director Remi Jouty told reporters.

A French navy vessel using deep-water listening devices picked up signals from one of the black boxes over a week ago, but so far it has failed to locate either it or the second recorder.

"For the moment we are hopeful of managing to locate these recorders while they continue to emit (pings)," Jouty said, acknowledging "we have to be quick".

The the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder have enough battery power to emit signals for four to five weeks.

The area where the plane went down is believed to be about 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) deep.

People light candles during a vigil in Cairo on May 26  2016 for the victims of the EgyptAir flight ...
People light candles during a vigil in Cairo on May 26, 2016 for the victims of the EgyptAir flight that crashed in the Mediterranean
Khaled Desouki, AFP/File

The "John Lethbridge" has a side scan sonar that provides digital images of the seabed, as well as a robot that is capable of diving to 3,000 metres.

Some wreckage was retrieved from the Mediterranean last month, along with belongings of passengers on board flight MS804, but no bodies have been found so far.

The plane crashed between the Greek island of Crete and the Egyptian coast after disappearing suddenly from radar screens.

Investigators have said it is too soon to determine what caused the disaster.

While speculation initially centred on a terror attack, a technical fault has also not been ruled out, with automated messages sent by the plane shortly before its demise indicating smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control unit.

The crash took place seven months after the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula in October that killed all 224 people on board.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for that attack. There has been no such claim over the EgyptAir crash.

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