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"We have so far found 10 bodies at the crash site off the coast of Naameh (12 kilometres) south of the Beirut airport," a defence ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Ethiopian Airlines Flight 409, carrying 90 passengers and crew, lost contact with the airport control tower shortly after takeoff and crashed into the Mediterranean sea around 2:30am (1230 GMT).
The accident took place amid heavy rains and storms in Lebanon.
"This is a painful, tragic event. We are sparing no efforts in trying to find survivors. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families of those on board," Lebanese President Michel Sleiman told reporters.
"Hospitals and medical teams must now be prepared, as well as all those who will be involved in keeping the families updated," Sleiman said. "The weather conditions are terrible, but rescue efforts are still underway."
The Lebanese army, navy and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) are searching the area.
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri declared Monday a national day of mourning.
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