Flags at half-mast as Spain mourns air crash victims

25th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Flags flew at half-mast and workplaces fell silent Wednesday as Spain grieved for the 150 people, including at least 51 Spaniards, killed in a plane crash in the French Alps.

Mourners stood still for a minute's silence at noon at countless points around the country, including both houses of parliament in Madrid, theatres and football fields.

Outside Barcelona's El Prat airport, where the Germanwings flight took off on Tuesday, staff stopped working for a minute's silence among giant wreaths of yellow flowers.

"The atmosphere is tense. The city is sad," 58-year-old Maria Antonia Roig said after dropping her son off to catch a flight at the airport.

"Everyone knows someone who knows a victim. It has hit very close to home."

Among the flags at half-mast across Spain was one atop the grand facade of Barcelona's opera house, the Gran Teatre del Liceu.

Two star opera singers who had just performed there in Richard Wagner's "Siegfried" died in the crash.

One of the singers, German contralto Maria Radner, 33, died along with her baby and husband, the Liceu theatre said.

The Liceu and the Teatro Real opera house in Madrid both held a minute's silence at noon.

Spain declared three days of mourning and King Felipe VI cut short his first state visit to France just minutes after it began on Tuesday upon hearing news of the tragedy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy cancelled all his appointments and flew to France where he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders near the crash site in a remote area of the French Alps.

FC Barcelona said its hockey and handball teams had worn black armbands in matches Tuesday and the basketball team would do the same on Wednesday.

Real Madrid footballers also held a minute's silence before training on Wednesday, the club said.

- Counting the dead -

French leaders said no one survived the crash of the Airbus A320 operated by Lufthansa's budget airline Germanwings.

Lufthansa said it was working on the assumption that the crash was an accident.

The Spanish government said in a statement that 51 Spanish victims had been identified so far as having been on the flight. Germanwings said it counted 35 Spaniards.

El Mundo newspaper said a 23-year-old woman and her husband, who had got married on Saturday and were moving to Germany, were killed in the crash.

Spanish officers were taking genetic samples from relatives to help identify the dead.

"We have so far taken DNA samples from relatives of at least 48 victims," said Xavier Porcuna, a spokesman for the Catalan police.

"Within 24 hours we will be able to start sending the genetic profiles to the French authorities."

- Schoolchildren in shock -

A big black ribbon filled the front page of Catalan newspaper ARA and the same symbol appeared on Spanish public television and various Twitter accounts.

Germanwings said there were at least 72 Germans on board the flight, among them 16 school pupils and two teachers who had been in Spain for an educational exchange.

The school visited by the German pupils in Catalonia held a private ceremony for the victims.

"It's very sad... A shock," one pupil, Georgina Diaz, told AFP on Tuesday.

The government said Spain was sending 11 psychologists to France to attend to any victims' relatives who may travel to the area of the crash.

"Right now what should most concern the government and the Spanish public is supporting the victims" bereaved by the crash, said Jose Luis Ayllon, junior parliamentary relations minister.

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© 2015 AFP

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