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EgyptAir Debris Photos Released As Crash Investigation Continues


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We start the program with the EgyptAir flight from Paris to Cairo, which crashed on Thursday. A few new clues emerged today in the effort to learn why. Officials say there's not enough evidence yet to favor any one possibility.

In Egypt, aviation officials have told family members of passengers that it will take weeks to identify human remains found in the wreckage. NPR's Emily Harris joins us now from Cairo, where she's covering this story. Emily, thanks so much for speaking with us.

EMILY HARRIS, BYLINE: It's my pleasure, Michel.

MARTIN: Can you tell us what's been recovered from the wreckage so far?

HARRIS: A little bit. The Egyptian military posted some photos and a video. The video shows a motorboat with five people in it out picking up debris from the water. And then the wreckage is shown spread out on the deck of a navy ship that includes what looks like a white high-top tennis shoe, parts of seats from the airplane, torn carpet, pieces of metal, including one that says EgyptAir on it.

Additionally, as you mentioned, officials say they have found human remains and told families of passengers that finding and identifying the remains could take a long time. Egypt's civilian aviation minister says that what is still missing are the flight data and voice recorders. Crucial pieces of information may be contained in those.

MARTIN: But we understand that some data communications from the plane's last minutes have emerged. Can you tell us what those are?

HARRIS: Yeah, these are automatic messages that are sent during the flight back to land when something goes wrong on the plane. This was reported by The Aviation Herald, an industry website. There were seven messages, each just are a few words. They're all sent within the last three minutes before contact was lost with the plane.

Two of these mention smoke. One says smoke, lavatory, smoke and ones says avionic smoke. And that apparently prefers the avionics area, which would be under the cockpit.

But a spokesman for the French agency that's assisting Europe with this investigation says there is not enough information in these short messages to conclude what caused these apparent problems that happened on board.

MARTIN: So before we let you go, can you tell us what investigators are considering?

HARRIS: Well, they say they're still considering all scenarios. Three main possibilities that have been cited - deliberate pilot or co-pilot action, mechanical failure or terrorism. There hasn't been a claim of responsibility by any terrorist group to this point. But on the day the plane went down, Egypt's civil aviation minister did say that terrorism, if you think about it rationally, is more likely than mechanical failure.

I should point out this was - he was pressed on this question many times. And he tried to avoid making any conclusions but did say that during the news conference. It's not clear whether he was suggesting that modern planes are unlikely to fail or he was suggesting that given this particular period of time there's a high chance of terrorism. But beyond that statement, no officials have indicated one cause over the other to this point.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Emily Harris in Cairo. Thanks Emily.

HARRIS: Thank You, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Harris
International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.
Michel Martin
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.