Berlin: Germany has been plunged into a state of shock and grief by the crash of an aircraft of Barcelona's subsidiary Germanwings in the French Alps region, killing all 150 passengers and crew on board, including 67 Germans.
Among the German victims, on board the Airbus A320 flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, included a group of 16 students and two teachers from a high school in the state of North Rhine Westphalia who were returning after attending an exchange programme in Spain.
About 45 Spanish citizens are reportedly among the crash victims.
They were still trying to establish the nationalities of all passengers, officials of Germanwings, a low-cost airline owned by Germany's main carrier Lufthansa, said.
French authorities said none of the aircraft's 144 passengers and six crew members survived the yesterday's crash in a mountainous terrain in the southern French Alps near the town of Barcelonnette.
The flight 4U 9525 descended for eight minutes soon after reaching its cruise altitude for unknown reasons and went down in a remote inaccessible region of the Department Alpes-de- Haute Provence in southern France, Germanwings managing director Thomas Winkelmann said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was shocked by the news of the crash which puts the people of Germany, France and Spain in deep sorrow.
"Our thoughts are with them", Merkel said while sharing the grief of those who lost their dear ones in the disaster.
Merkel announced that she will visit the crash site together with the state premier of North Rhine Westphalia today to get a "first hand impression."
She also pledged her government's support for the families of the crash victims.
The government will do everything needed to establish the cause of the disaster, she said.
German President Joachim Gauck, who was on a visit to Peru, has cut short his visit and returned home.
Gauck expressed his deep sorrow over the loss of lives.
He said he shared the sorrow of the families of those killed in the crash and his thoughts are with them.
German Foreign Minister Frank WalterSteinmeier, who flew over the crash site described the scene as a "picture of horror."
The government and the people of Germany are united in sharing the sorrow of the families and relations of the crash victims, he said.
"We must stand together by their side," he said.
The Foreign Ministry in Berlin has set up a crisis management team to coordinate the efforts to help the families and the investigation teams to establish the cause of one of the worst air disasters in Germany's aviation history.