A flight operated by Air Algerie and carrying 116 people from Burkina Faso to Algeria's capital disappeared from radar early today, and an Algerian aviation official now tells Reuters the plane has crashed, though no further details were given. Air navigation services lost track of the Swiftair MD-83 about 50 minutes after takeoff from Ougadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 1:55am GMT (9:55pm Eastern last night), the official Algerian news agency says. That means that Flight 5017 had been missing for hours before the news was made public. Swiftair, a private Spanish airline, confirms it has not been possible to make contact with the plane.
Swiftair says the plane carrying 110 passengers and six crew left Burkina Faso for Algiers at 1:17am GMT today, but had not arrived at the scheduled time of 5:10am GMT. But, as Reuters puts it, conflicting information has been given about timing, "adding to confusion about the fate of the flight and where it might be." The plane was over Gao, Mali, when contact was lost, and a diplomat in Mali says there was a powerful sandstorm overnight in the north part of the country, over which the plane would likely have flown. The Burkina Faso transport minister says the flight asked to change course at 1:38am GMT because of a storm, according to Reuters. (Read more missing plane stories.)