Alps crash victim identification possible soon: Hollande

31st March 2015, Comments 0 comments

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday it would soon be possible to identify the victims of the Germanwings plane disaster, as insurers said hundreds of millions of dollars were being set aside to cover compensation for their families.

With search teams continuing to scour the crash site in the French Alps under arduous conditions, Hollande said on a one-day visit to Berlin that identifying the 150 people on board Flight 4U9525 would help allow the families to grieve.

"The interior minister (Bernard Cazeneuve) has confirmed that by the end of the week, it would be possible to identify all the victims thanks to the DNA samples taken and to this exceptional scientific work," Hollande said.

Questioned by AFP, the French interior ministry later said that the hope was for the DNA of all the victims to have been collected by the end of the week.

The French president was speaking at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel following a joint meeting of their two cabinets.

Merkel reiterated her thanks to France for its help in dealing with the disaster which happened a week ago as the Airbus A320 flew from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

Half of the victims were German -- at least 50 were also from Spain -- and Merkel also praised the work of rescuers in the remote mountainous terrain, as well as the way local people had helped the victims' families.

The remainder of the victims were a mix of more than a dozen other nationalities.

A local regional official from the crash area Patricia Willaert told reporters Tuesday that more than 450 relatives had made their way to the crash area so far.

- Lufthansa pays respects -

The chief executives of Lufthansa and Germanwings will travel Wednesday to the crash area.

Carsten Spohr, head of the parent company Lufthansa and Thomas Winkelmann from the Germanwings low-cost subsidiary will visit Seyne-les-Alpes early Wednesday to inspect recovery operations and pay their respects to the dead.

The German flag carrier said $300 million (279 million euros) in provisions had been earmarked to cover the damages.

The sum includes financial compensation for the families of the people who died and the cost of the Airbus A320 jet itself, which belonged to Lufthansa's low-cost carrier Germanwings, a company spokeswoman told AFP.

The current list price of an Airbus A320 jet is $93.9 million.

The director of operations at Germanwings, Oliver Wagner, has said that the company would immediately compensate each family with 50,000 euros.

This sum would not be deducted from any final compensation deal, he added.

The catastrophe has dealt a heavy blow to Lufthansa's image and it announced Tuesday it would cancel celebrations next month marking the airline's 60th anniversary "out of respect for the crash victims of flight 4U9525".

Investigators evaluating voice recorder data from a "black box" located last week say the Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately slammed the plane into a French mountainside.

The flight crashed at a speed of 700 kilometres (430 miles) an hour, instantly killing all 150 people on board.

Lubitz was diagnosed as suicidal "several years ago", before he became a pilot, but had appeared more stable of late, German prosecutors said Monday.

Doctors had recently found no sign he intended to hurt himself or others, said Ralf Herrenbrueck, spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the western city of Duesseldorf.

However, he was receiving treatment from neurologists and psychiatrists who had signed him off sick from work a number of times, including the day of the crash.

Ripped up sick notes were found in a flat used by Lubitz, which authorities believe indicates that the 27-year-old was trying to hide his illness from his employer.

- Missing 'black box' -

Meanwhile investigators continued their grim search through the wreckage and hundreds of body parts in the French Alps using a new service road built to the remote crash site.

"It means we can work work faster, later and bring back more items," said one police officer.

Trucks now take 45 minutes to reach the base of the rocky slope where debris remains spread across some two hectares (five acres), while two helicopters hover overhead to check for pieces that may have been flung further.

The second "black box" recorder, which gathered technical data on the flight, has yet to be found.

- 'Systemic weaknesses' -

Forensic teams have isolated almost 80 distinct DNA strands from the shattered aircraft and have described the task as "unprecedented" given the tricky mountain terrain and the speed at which the plane smashed.

French investigators said they would now concentrate on "the systemic weaknesses" that might have caused the disaster, including the logic of locking cockpit doors from the inside, which was introduced after the suicide hijackings of September 11, 2001, in the United States to stop terrorist attacks.

It said it would also look into procedures for detecting "specific psychologic profiles" in pilots after indications that Lubitz may have suffered from depression.

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© 2015 AFP

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