Ethiopian plane from Lebanon crashes, 90 on board

Cause may have been lightning, Beirut police rule out terrorism.

Ethiopian Airlines 737-800 - 311 (photo credit: AP)
Ethiopian Airlines 737-800 - 311
(photo credit: AP)

An Ethiopian Airlines plane with 90 people onboard crashed into the sea early Monday just minutes after takeoff from , the country’s transportationminister said.

The cause was not immediately known. Butpolice ruled out terrorism and said the crash was likely weather-related. Ithad been raining heavily in on Sunday, and lightning had occasionally struck.

The Boeing 737-800 took off around 2:30 a.m.for the Ethiopian capital , saidGhazi Aridi, ’spublic works and transportation minister.

"The weather undoubtedly was verybad," Aridi told reporters at the airport. He added that the plane wentdown about 3.5 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.

Helicopters and naval ships were deployed tofind the plane, but came up unsuccessful.

Ethiopian Airlines released a statement onits Web site confirming the plane was missing.

"A team is already working on gatheringall pertinent information," the statement said. "An investigativeteam has already been dispatched to the scene and we will release furtherinformation as further updates are received."

Calls to the airline were not immediatelyreturned.

The plane was carrying 90 people, including83 passengers and 7 crew members. Aridi identified the passengers as 54Lebanese, 22 Ethiopians, one Iraqi, one Syrian, one Canadian of Lebaneseorigin, one Russian of Lebanese origin, a French woman and two Britons ofLebanese origin.