Two Britons on crashed plane

Two Britons were among 90 people on an jet which crashed into the Mediterranean after taking off from Beirut, a Lebanese minister said today.

Two Britons were among 90 people on an jet which crashed into the Mediterranean after taking off from Beirut, a Lebanese minister said today.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed into the sea early today, just minutes after taking off.

Lebanon's transportation minister Ghazi Aridi said two Britons of Lebanese origin were among the passengers on board, with the rest being mainly Lebanese and Ethiopian.

A Foreign Office spokesman was unable to verify the report, saying British embassy officials in Lebanon were checking.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are trying to find out (whether

any Britons were on board).

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“Our embassy staff are checking and trying to find out as much as they can.”

The Boeing 737-800 took off from Beirut at around 2.30am local time (12.30am GMT) for the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, said Mr Aridi.

It went down around two miles off the coast.

The crash's cause was not immediately known, but police ruled out terrorism and said it was probably weather-related. It had been raining heavily with lightning in Beirut.

“The weather undoubtedly was very bad,' Mr Aridi said.

Helicopters and naval ships were scrambled to find the plane, which was carrying 83 passengers and seven crew.

Mr Aridi said the passengers were 54 Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebanese origin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and the two Britons.

Relatives later began arriving at Beirut airport, many of them crying and hugging one another.

They were led into a VIP area. Ethiopian Airlines said on its website: “A team is already working on

gathering all pertinent information.

“An investigative team has already been dispatched to the scene and we will release further information as further updates are received.”

Witnesses reportedly saw a ball of fire in the sky before the jet crashed into the sea.

Wreckage from the plane has also been seen off the Lebanese coast.