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French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

© Screengrab

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-25

There were scenes of shock and grief at French airports after the crash of the Air Algérie plane as relatives and friends awaiting passengers on connecting flights from Algeria received news of the disaster.

A small group of people gathered at Paris's Orly airport, looking stunned and hollow-eyed, before they were ushered into an emergency centre set up for relatives of victims of Air Algérie flight AH 5017, which crashed in Mali on Thursday.

The flight from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, to Algiers had 51 French nationals on board, many of whom were due to take connecting flights to France from the Algerian capital.

But as friends and families gathered at airports across the country soon learned, their loved ones had not made their connecting flights – nor were they likely to come home anytime soon.

Speaking to reporters in Paris Friday after convening an emergency meeting, French President François Hollande said there were no survivors among the 118 people on board the MD-83 plane.

For Amadou Ouedrago, the news came as a complete shock. “I can’t believe I have lost my younger brother,” he said between deep sighs as he tried to control his emotions. “His whole family…two, three days before they left [France] we had a barbecue with friends. The kids were really excited to be going to's tough, very tough,” he said.

‘The call came this morning from France’

Similar scenes were unfolding in many parts of the world. Burkinabe officials say the passengers on board the flight included 51 French nationals, 27 Burkinabe citizens, eight Lebanese, six Algerians, two from Luxembourg, five Canadians, four Germans, one Cameroonian, one Belgian, one Egyptian, one Ukrainian, one Swiss, one Nigerian and one Malian.

In the French overseas territory of French Guiana, a mother of a 21-year-old passenger, who declined to be named or provide the name of her son, told French public radio that she received the dreaded news from her brother in mainland France on Thursday. "The call came this morning from France. One of my brothers who lives there called to tell me there was a problem with the plane,” she said. “He did not know if it had crashed and if there were any survivors." She immediately called the French Foreign Ministry, who confirmed that the plane had crashed.

At the airport in the southern French city of Marseilles, emergency services were deployed to provide support to relatives of the seven passengers who were due to land at 10.40 am Thursday.

“They have been dealt a serious blow,” said Marseilles airport director Pierre Regis. “They'll need time to deal with the magnitude of what has happened. And they should be given time and space.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius will be meeting families of the victims of Air Algérie flight AH5017 in Paris on Saturday.

Date created : 2014-07-25

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