A Germanwings plane carrying 150 people has crashed in the French Alps on its way from Barcelona to Duesseldorf. The Airbus A320 - flight 4U 9525 - went down between Digne and Barcelonnette. There are no survivors, officials say.
The "black box" flight recorder has been found, the French interior minister says. The cause of the crash is not known and the plane did not send a distress signal. The dead are believed to include 16 German schoolchildren.
French and German leaders have expressed shock.
"This is the hour in which we all feel deep sorrow," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters, adding that she was planning to travel to the crash site.
At least one rescue helicopter has reached the site, in a remote mountain area.
Gilbert Sauvan, a local council official, told Les Echos newspaper that the plane had "disintegrated".
"The largest piece of debris is about the size of a car," he said.
We know the aircraft went from a normal cruising height of 38,000 feet to crashing in the mountains in just eight minutes. One pilot said that is twice the normal descent rate, but he also said that the aircraft is capable of coming down even more quickly and still being okay.In an emergency, the pilots' first priority is to fly the plane, but as soon as they have some control they are trained to make an emergency call. That didn't appear to happen in this case, which suggests the pilots were coping with something so catastrophic they never had time to radio in a mayday, or turn to find the nearest runway.
It's still too early to know anything for certain, but that might point to both engines failing, a fuel problem or something critical breaking off the aircraft.