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Page last updated at 00:45 GMT, Wednesday, 3 June 2009 01:45 UK

Brazil says debris from crash jet

French search team over the Antarctic (02 June 2009)
Brazilian and French teams have been searching the Atlantic Ocean

Debris spotted by planes in waters 650km (400 miles) off Brazil's coast belongs to a missing French airliner, the Brazilian government has confirmed.

Defence Minister Nelson Jobim said he had no doubt the debris was from the Air France jet carrying 228 people.

A Brazilian search plane saw a band of wreckage along a 5km (3m) strip, Mr Jobim told reporters in Rio de Janeiro. There was no report of survivors.

Flight AF 447 was heading from Rio to Paris when it was lost early on Monday.

The discovery of the debris confirmed "that the plane went down" in the area, Mr Jobim said.

He gave few details of the wreckage, saying only that it included metallic and non-metallic pieces.

Earlier, Brazil's air force said it had spotted an airplane seat, an orange buoy and signs of fuel.

Mr Jobim's words will come as grim confirmation of the worst for the families waiting for news both in Paris and Rio, the BBC's Gary Duffy reports from Brazil.

Jean-Louis Borloo, the French minister for transport, said the chance of finding anyone alive was now "very, very small - even nonexistent".

If it is confirmed that all 228 people on Flight AF 447 are dead, it will be the worst loss of life in Air France's history.

Ships on hand

Naval boats are due to arrive in the crash zone on Wednesday, while three merchant vessels are already in the area, the Brazilian defence minister said.

An Air France Airbus A330-200 believed to be the missing plane - archive image from AirTeam Images
Flight AF 447 left Rio at 1900 local time (2200 GMT) on Sunday
Airbus A330-200 carrying 216 passengers and 12 crew
Contact lost 0130 GMT
Missed scheduled landing at 1110 local time (0910 GMT) in Paris

If any bodies are found, they will be transported by ship to the nearest airport, on Brazil's archipelago of Fernando de Noronha, he was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

The defence minister warned that the recovery of the plane's cockpit voice and data recorders could be difficult because of the depth of the ocean.

"It could be at a depth of 2,000m or 3,000m [6,500ft-9,800ft] in that area of the ocean," he said.

He made the announcement after visiting relatives of those aboard the flight, who were being looked after in a Rio hotel by teams including psychological and medical personnel.

France is also sending a research ship equipped with two mini-submarines to the disaster area.

Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the search teams over the Atlantic were "in a race against the clock in extremely difficult weather conditions".

Distress call mystery

Most of the missing people are Brazilian or French but they include a total of 32 nationalities. Five Britons and three Irish citizens are among them.

Our only certainty is that the plane did not send out any distress call
Francois Fillon
French prime minister

On Tuesday, the French National Assembly held a minute's silence for those on board the plane, and thanked countries involved in the search.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will attend a religious service for the families and friends of the missing passengers and crew at Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Fillon told the French parliament that the cause of the plane's loss had still to be established.

"Our only certainty is that the plane did not send out any distress call but regular automatic alerts for three minutes indicating the failure of all systems," he said.

Experts remain puzzled that there were no radio reports from the Airbus and they say that such a modern aircraft would have had to suffer multiple traumas to plunge into the sea, the BBC's Adam Mynott reports from Paris.

Flight of AF 447

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Washington Post Brazil finds debris from Air France jet in Atlantic - 1 hr ago
CNN No survivors found in wreckage of Air... - 1 hr ago
Philadelphia Inquirer Brazil confirms Air France jet crashed in ocean - 2 hrs ago
ONE News Air France plane debris confirmed - 3 hrs ago
The Age 5km strip of wreckage - 3 hrs ago

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