PARIS: France’s interior minister said investigators are looking into all possible causes of Tuesday’s Germanwings crash in the French Alps, but he appeared to rule out the likelihood of a terrorist attack.
“The debris from the plane is spread over one and a half hectares, which is a significant area because the shock was significant but it shows that the plane did not appear to have exploded,” Bernard Cazeneuve told French radio station RTL.
The theory of a terrorist attack is “not the theory we’re focusing on,” Cazeneuve said.
Nevertheless, the minister added cautiously that “all theories must be carefully examined until we have the results of the enquiry.”
He said the black box that had been recovered from the crash site, which records the sounds and conversations in the cockpit, had been damaged and would need to be repaired “in the coming hours.”
“The enquiry must begin today,” stressed Cazeneuve.
Early on Wednesday, investigators began the grim task of sifting through the pulverized remnants of the Germanwings Airbus A320, which smashed into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board.
Their efforts are being hampered by the inaccessibility of the crash site, with helicopters finding it near impossible to land in the rocky and perilously steep mountain terrain.
French rescuers resumed the search on Wednesday for the remains of the 150 people, including 16 school children, killed from the crash.
Officials are hunting for clues to why the plane, operated by German flag carrier Lufthansa’s budget subsidiary, entered a fatal eight-minute descent on its route between Barcelona and Duesseldorf.
No distress signal was sent and the crew failed to respond to desperate attempts at contact from ground control.
A second so-called black box, in this case recording flight data, has yet to be found.
Video images from a government helicopter on Tuesday showed a desolate snow-flecked moonscape, with steep ravines covered in scree. Debris was strewn across the mountainside, pieces of twisted metal smashed into tiny bits.
Debris was believed to be scattered over four acres of remote and inaccessible mountainous terrain, hampering rescue efforts.
The plane was “totally destroyed,” a local member of parliament who flew over the site said, describing the scene as “horrendous.”
“The biggest body parts we identified are not bigger than a briefcase,” one investigator said.
More than 300 policemen and 380 firefighters have been mobilized for the grisly task of searching the site.
Lieutenant Colonel Jean-Marc Menichini said a squad of 30 mountain rescue police would resume attempts to reach the crash site by helicopter at dawn on Wednesday, while a further 65 police were seeking access on foot. Five investigators had spent the night camped at the site.
It would take “at least a week” to search the remote site, he said.
“Ground access is horrible. It’s a very high mountainous area, very steep and it’s terrible to get there except from the air during winter,” local resident Francoise Pie said.
Family members of the dead were to arrive on Wednesday at the rescuers’ logistics base in a village near the crash site.
French President Francois Hollande, his German counterpart Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy were also expected to arrive in the area around 2:00 pm (1:00 pm Manila time).