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Prospects of Air France survivors 'very slim': Sarkozy

The prospects of finding survivors from an Air France flight that has vanished over the Atlantic are "very slim," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday.

world Updated: Jun 02, 2009 00:28 IST

The prospects of finding survivors from an Air France flight that has vanished over the Atlantic are "very slim," French President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday.

"I told them the truth, which is that the prospects of finding any survivors are very slim," Sarkozy told reporters at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport after meeting shocked relatives of missing passengers.

"It's a catastrophe the likes of which Air France has never seen," he said.

Sarkozy, accompanied by his transport, environment and foreign ministers, also visited a crisis unit set up at the airport.

Air France said the Airbus A330 jet with 228 people was probably hit by lightning during a storm during its flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, causing an electrical fault which appears to have led to a crash.

Speaking in grave voice, Sarkozy stressed how tough the search effort will be, after the Airbus A330 disappeared from radar screens and no emergency signal was received.

"This will be extremely difficult, because the area is immense, hundreds of kilometres, and naturally this drama happened in the middle of the night over the Atlantic," he said.

"We believe the aircraft was around 400 kilometres (240 miles) from Brazil. As I speak, those are the elements that we have."

He added: "Our Spanish friends are helping us. The Brazilians are helping us a lot. We have asked for help, including from the Americans, using satellites, first of all to pinpoint where the catastrophe happened."

It was essential, he said, to find as much debris as possible "to understand what happened".

On the relatives he had just met, Sarkozy said he found them "extremely dignified and courageous ... Everyone can well imagine what a mother who lost her daughter, a fiancee who lost her future husband, are thinking."