How Long Will Germanwings Recovery Efforts Take?

A Germanwings flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf crashed in the French Alps Tuesday morning after rapidly dropping in altitude. French authorities don't expect any survivors of the 144 passengers and 6 crew members reportedly aboard the flight. Search and rescue teams are trying to reach the crash site in a remote part of the mountains in southeastern France, but recovery of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 could last days.

Wreckage has been located near the town of Prads-Haute-Bléone, and one helicopter was able to land near the crash site, but has found no survivors, according to The Guardian. The French interior minister told reporters that 10 helicopters and a military plane were mobilized around the crash site, and there are more than 500 working the scene, according to a tweet from France's national police.

Because the plane crashed in a rugged part of the mountains with almost no inhabitants, it will take search and rescue workers a while just to physically reach the site of the crash. In a press conference Tuesday, French president François Hollande said: "It happened in a region that is fairly difficult to access." A mountain guide told BFMTV that this part of the Alps can have peaks almost two miles high, and because it's very snowy, responders might have to use skis to reach the site.

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The president of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region where the crash took place, Gilbert Sauvan, told CNN that the plane was "obliterated," with no piece of debris larger than the size of a small car. The wreckage is strewn across a large area, and Sauvan said rescue teams might not be able to retrieve any bodies Tuesday or Wednesday because of the weather conditions. Although it's not believed bad weather caused the crash, the winter weather forecasted for later Tuesday and Wednesday are complicating recovery efforts, with temperatures dropping below freezing overnight. To Reuters, regional police chief David Galtier said:

We are still searching. It's unlikely any bodies will be airlifted until Wednesday.
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The French interior minister announced that one of the black boxes of the plane has already been found, which may help authorities determine the cause of the crash. The plane went down after losing contact with air traffic controllers and quickly descending to an altitude of about 6,000 feet where it crashed into the mountains, but it's still unclear what led to the disaster.

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