Authorities say an Ethiopian Airlines jet was in flames before it plunged into the Mediterranean Sea minutes after takeoff.
The Boeing 737 had about 90 people aboard when it left the airport in Beirut, Lebanon early Monday.
Helicopters and naval ships have been searching for survivors amid high waves and heavy rain. A Lebanese official says 12 bodies have been recovered so far.
The cause of the crash is not immediately known, though Lebanon's president says terrorism is not suspected. Lebanon has been slammed by stormy weather since Sunday, with crackling thunder, lightning and driving rain.
The Boeing 737-800 was en route to Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa. An embassy official says the passengers include the wife of France's ambassador to Lebanon.