'Shocked' Spaniards mourn air crash victims

25th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Flags flew at half-mast and workplaces fell silent Wednesday as Spain grieved 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 both houses of parliament in Madrid, in theatres, on football fields and elsewhere, after the government declared three days of mourning.

Barcelona's El Prat airport, where the Germanwings flight took off on Tuesday and which was bedecked with giant wreaths, came to a halt for a minute.

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

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

Among the flags at half-mast across Spain were those atop 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 them, German contralto Maria Radner, 33, was killed along with her baby and husband, the Liceu theatre said.

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

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

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

- Counting the dead -

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy flew to France to visit the area of the crash site in a remote area of the French Alps alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

French leaders said no-one survived the crash of the Airbus A320 operated by Lufthansa's low-cost subsidiary Germanwings.

"We will never forget you. In the name of all Spaniards," Rajoy wrote in a condolence book.

"We want to join all of them in their pain," Rajoy added in a speech, in a reference to the victims' loved ones.

"We want to help them by any means available to us. We want to identify all the victims and repatriate them in the best possible conditions."

Rajoy's government said 51 Spanish victims had so far been identified as being on the flight.

Officers were taking genetic samples from dozens of relatives to help identify the dead, 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," he said.

There was still no word on the cause of the crash by Wednesday afternoon. Lufthansa said Tuesday it was working on the assumption that it was an accident.

- 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 official 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 the Catalan town of Llinars del Valles held a private ceremony for the victims.

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

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

Lufthansa said it would arrange for two flights to leave from Spain and Germany on Thursday morning to take family members of the crash victims to southern France so they can visit the accident site.

The airline's chief executive, Carsten Spohr, met with relatives and friends of crash victims in Barcelona.

"This meeting is hard to describe in words, it was very, very emotional for all of us. What they have gone through is of course incomprehensible and it was difficult to be there," he told a news conference.

© 2015 AFP

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