Update 10:57 EST: According to a NBCNews report wreckage from the plane had been found in Mali confirming that the Air Algerie flight had indeed crashed in the country. The crash site is apparently north of the city of Gao. Unconfirmed reports, tracing back to the Facebook page of Air Algerie, said that Fidel Castro’s niece, Mariela was one of the passengers on board the plane.

Air Algerie flight

A plane from Algerian airline Air Algerie crashed in the Sahara desert this morning according to a statement from the company. The plane, which was traveling between Burkina Faso and Algiers, was carrying 116 people, including 6 crew. There has been no indication of what may have caused the crash, or who might bear responsibility. No information of the fate of the passengers has been released, but a list with some information has been made public.

Passenger list of Air Algerie flight revealed

The Ministry of Transport in Burkina Faso released the nationalities of those on the flight this morning. According to the release the plane held 51 French, 27 Burkina Faso nationals, 8 Lebanese, 6 Algerians, 5 Canadians, 4 Germans, 2 Luxemburg nationals, 1 Swiss, 1 Belgium, 1 Egyptian, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Nigerian, 1 Cameroonian and 1 Malian as passengers. All six of the crew on board were Spanish citizens.

The plane that went missing was apparently rented by Air Algerie from a Spanish company, Swiftair, explaining the presence of an entire Spanish crew on board the plane. No good explanation is, as of yet, available for the loss of contact with the plane, and no information about the condition of the plane’s passengers is known about at time of writing.

Algerian plane disappears in desert

At about 2 am local time the Air Algerie  jet that had departed from Burkina Faso’s Capital Ouagadougou fifty minutes earlier lost contact with air traffic controllers in the area. The plane never made it to its eventual destination in Algiers, Algeria. About twenty minutes into the flight the pilots requested permission to divert from their pre-planned course because of heavy rains along their path.

The actual path the plane was supposed to take, and the one they may have diverted along is not clear at this time, nor is the cause of the loss of contact with officials. According to reports the pilots were last in contact with air traffic control in Gao, a Malian city that has seen violence in the midst of that country’s ongoing civil disturbances. It is not clear if that violence had anything to do with the plane’s disappearance.

Several other explanations have raised themselves through the course of this morning’s speculations. Terrorist involvement, which could present as a highjacking or a bombing has been raised as a possible reason as has simple technical difficulties.

The air incident it the third major incident to dominate the headlines in the last week, with the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH17 and the crash landing of a TransAsia plane in Taiwan on Wednesday. The Air Algerie disappearance adds to what has been a terrible period for international airlines, and a sorrowful time for the families of the passengers affected by the multiple tragedies so far this year.