Efforts Focus on Finding Russian Flight Recorders

SOCHI (Southern Russia), May 4 (RIA Novosti) - Rescue teams continued throughout Thursday to search for the flight recorders of an Armenian airliner that crashed early Wednesday into the Black Sea, killing all 113 people on board.

French experts who had arrived in the Russian resort of Sochi to help with the rescue efforts said they had picked up a radio signal that could be coming from the black boxes of the crashed Airbus plane.

"The signal was found almost immediately after the search started, but is very weak," an emergencies ministry official said.

European aircraft producer Airbus said the radio signals had been included in the design of the plane to make it easier to identify the location of the flight recorders after a possible crash.

Early on Wednesday, an Airbus A-320 belonging to Armenia's Armavia Airlines flying from the country's capital, Yerevan, crashed about six kilometers (3.7 miles) off the Russian coast en route to an airport in Adler, which services Sochi.

Hopes of finding the flight recorders rose after a rescuer said that large pieces of the passenger jet had been found on the seabed with the help of radars.

"It is possible that the discovered parts will contain the black boxes," the rescuer said.

"In the next few hours, we will identify the location (of the plane parts) and summon all the deep-sea special equipment to the site," he said.

Transportation Minister Igor Levitin said that the fragments of the plane were lying at a depth of 680 meters (2,230 feet), and that southern Russia did not have the necessary equipment to recover them.

"There is an experimental model in the north of the country, and we will try to deliver it to the operation site," he said. "It can work at a depth of 500 meters [1,640 feet]." Levitin also said Russia would ask other countries with experience in deep-sea recovery operations for help in retrieving the fragments.

Sergei Kudinov, the head of the southern regional center of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, echoed Levitin in saying that international technologies would be used to lift the black boxes.

"We will employ international technologies, in particular, from France, the U.S. or Norway," he said.

In the morning, the Emergency Situations Ministry said that the main part of the aircraft's fuselage and the tail had been recovered.

Meanwhile, officials from Georgia neighboring Russia and Armenia said the airliner was nearing the Russian border when it was warned of bad weather conditions at Adler airport, and the pilot decided to return to Yerevan. Later, however, he received a communication from air traffic control saying that conditions had improved and decided to resume his course. Ten minutes later the plane crashed.

So far, rescuers have recovered 48 bodies, of which 20 have been identified.

Officials also continued to study the recorded conversations between air traffic controllers and the crew before the crash.

Levitin said the extensive recovery operation, which had continued through the night, involved 500 rescue workers, about 40 boats, deep-sea vehicles, and a B-200 amphibious aircraft searching the coastal line. He added that recovery teams had reached Loo, a town 15 kilometers (9 miles) from Sochi and would now move back to Adler.

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