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French military steps up search for bodies, black boxes of crashed plane
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15:28, June 11, 2009

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A French nuclear-powered submarine joined the search on Wednesday for the flight data and cabin voice recorders of the Air France passenger plane that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean last week, the military said.

The submarine, Emeraude, began searching for the recorders, commonly known as black boxes, in an initial zone of about 36 sq km. It will then move to other areas in the following days. No deadline has been set for the search.

This is the first time the French military has used a nuclear-powered submarine to search for the debris of a crashed plane. News reports said Emeraude will use its sonar equipment to locate the black boxes that are believed to have sunk to the ocean floor.

With the specific location of the crash unknown, the search mission faces great difficulty. The French military said finding the black boxes was a matter of luck, but it was still worth a try.

Since Air France Flight 447 went missing nearly 10 days ago, the French military has sent a special task force to join the search and rescue operation. The most important task at present, the military said, is to recover the bodies of the victims.

The French Defense Ministry said on Wednesday the multinational search was under the coordination of the Brazilian military.

Two French Breguet Atlantique 2 maritime patrol aircraft based in Senegal are participating, while a French Falcon 50 is also flying from a Brazilian base in Natal to the crash site, the military said.

According to the French Air Force, these planes will search for bodies in a zone of the Atlantic Ocean "some 1,000 km off the coast of Brazil" and "some 2,000 km off the coast of Senegal."

From Monday to Tuesday, the Ventose, a French military frigate, recovered several bodies that were later flown to the Fernando de Noronha islands off Brazil's northeastern coast to be identified. In addition, the frigate also found more than 100 pieces of debris from the crashed plane.

Another French navy ship, the Mistral, also set off to the crash site on Wednesday to join the Ventose in the hunt.

The French Defense Ministry said 400 soldiers have been participating in the search.

Air France Flight 447, an Airbus A330, vanished over the Atlantic Ocean on June 1 after leaving Rio de Janeiro for Paris, with 228 people on board, including nine Chinese.

Source: Xinhua

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