An Ethiopian airliner carrying 90 people exploded in a ball of flames and plunged into the sea off Lebanon just after takeoff in stormy weather early yesterday, officials and witnesses said.
A massive international search and rescue operation involving helicopters and ships was hastily scrambled as President Michel Sleiman ruled out foul play and grim-faced officials played down hopes of any survivors.
A Lebanese security official said that by noon 21 bodies had been pulled from the sea, including that of a child. One rescue official said the bodies recovered were dismembered.
Debris from the Boeing 737 as well as luggage and personal belongings had started washing up on the Lebanese shoreline, officials and witnesses said.
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