Newly discovered wreckage from an Air France plane that vanished while flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris two years ago reportedly contains the bodies of passengers.
French investigators said that parts of the Airbus passenger jet had been located using underwater robots and salvage teams, raising hopes of solving what caused the crash. The hunt for flight recorders continued, they said.
Air France flight AF 447 went down roughly midway between Brazil and Senegal on June 1, 2009, killing all 228 people on board. The loss of the A330-203 was the airline's deadliest crash.
France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis said aircraft parts found on the ocean floor, identified as belonging to AF 447, included the engine and parts of the fuselage, and Environment Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said on Monday there were human remains inside, Reuters reported.
"We have more than just traces, we have bodies... Identification is possible," she reportedly said.
"The favorable news is that the debris area is relatively concentrated. And this gives us hope of finding the black boxes," BEA director Jean-Paul Troadec told AFP.
He said "engines and certain elements of the wings" had been found among the wreckage.
"This is very good news because it brings with it the hope that at last we will get some information on what caused this accident, which to this day remains unexplained," Air France-KLM's chief executive Pierre-Henri Gourgeon said.
A spokesman for Airbus added: "We do hope that the discovery will lead to the retrieval and reading of the two recorders because this data is essential for the understanding of this accident."
Efforts to locate the plane had taken on a new urgency after a French judge filed preliminary manslaughter charges last month against Air France and Airbus over the crash, AP said.
It said both the airline and manufacturer were footing the $12.5 million bill for the latest search, with about $28 million already spent on three earlier attempts to find the jet.
Robotic equipment is being used to scour the ocean floor at depths of up to 4,000 meters in an effort to locate the flight recorders in the hope they will shed light on the mystery cause of crash.
Theories include possible icing-up of aircraft speed sensors, which appeared to give inconsistent readings seconds before the plane vanished.
-- Barry Neild