Germanwings crash generates giant wave of solidarity
From offers of accommodation to freshly baked cookies, locals near the crash site of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 have rallied round with everything at their disposal to ease -- in a small way -- the pain of victims' families.
"It's important we console the parents and children," said eight-year-old Armelle, who accompanied her mother and two siblings to deliver cookies to the local centre set up to deal with the influx of people.
"We know an airplane crashed and there were school children aboard, and it's sad ... We decided to do something," said the little girl.
With bereaved relatives of the 150 people killed in Tuesday's crash flooding in to the remote villages and towns, local authorities say they have been inundated with offers of help.
In fact, offers have come in so thick and fast since the crash that the nearby town of Digne-les-Bains has doubled the number of people operating the switchboard.
The mayor's office said it has received scores of calls offering lodging, food and assistance to people who have flocked to the region.
Employees there and in surrounding municipalities are working double-time to note and file various offers away, and pass them along to people arriving and needing assistance.
In addition to opening up homes or vacation houses in the region to people needing a roof, an interpreter from Geneva called local authorities offering his services.
An undertaker from Nice, meanwhile, offered to transport the remains of victims when the time came.
"We're all supportive, naturally," said Charles Lanta, who came to the town hall of Seyne-les-Alpes from the neighbouring village of Montclar to offer help dealing with victims' families, officials, emergency workers and others converging on the crash site.
"I even have friends who called me to say, 'Come get the keys to our chalet and you can use it for anyone who needs a room'.
"We feel very bad for all these people," he said, fighting back tears. "When 150 people die, 2,000 weep."
The sorrow that the dramatic loss of life produced has left some observers impressed by the concern and support being shown for families of victims, and everyone working in the inquiry and salvage effort.
"In this selfish world where people are turned inward, there are still people with heart," said Michel Blanc, a Digne-les-Bains city council member, as people bustled to lend a hand.
Elsewhere, countless condolence messages have been left at one of the many memorials set up in the area.
"May time help you overcome this ordeal," reads one message.
"We are the first link in the chain of mourning," said Seyne-les-Alpes mayor Francis Hermitte, still moved by the gratitude expressed Wednesday for his town's efforts by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a visit to the crash area.
© 2015 AFP