A rescue operation is under way after a passenger plane crashed into the sea off the coast of Sicily, killing at least seven people. Italian officials say the plane was carrying 39 passengers and crew as it made an emergency landing after earlier signaling a technical failure. The plane’s pilot made a distress call to Palermo airport seeking permission to make an emergency landing but failed to reach land and ditched some 20 kilometres out at sea. Twenty-four survivors were been shipped onto rescue vessels, but six people are believed to have been trapped inside the plane’s fuselage, and three people are reported missing. Coast guards said five bodies had been recovered from the sea. An agency report said the toll could be as high as nine. All the passengers were said to be Italian nationals. The plane, a scheduled Tuninter flight, was travelling between Bari, in southern Italy, and Djerba, the Tunisian holiday destination.