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Monday, November 8, 1999 Published at 07:57 GMT

World: Americas

Atlantic memorial service for crash families

"My baby, my baby" screamed one grieving woman

About 250 relatives of the victims of EgyptAir Flight 990 have been taking part in a memorial service on the edge of the ocean where their loved ones died.

Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders offered readings, chants and prayers in three languages.

The Egyptian airliner plunged into the Atlantic off the state of Massachusetts last Sunday with the loss of 217 lives.

The loss of flight 990
"Your loss is great, your pain deep, but you must find solace in the memory of those wonderful moments you shared with your loved ones," said Egyptian Ambassador Nebil Fahmy.

A message of condolence from President Clinton was read by the American transportation secretary.

After the service in a tent by the ocean, the bereaved were led to the water.

[ image: Sharing their grief]
Sharing their grief
Some wept as they dropped flowers into the sea and lingered to pray and meditate. Others left their flowers in a wicker basket.

The Coast Guard is planning to drop the flowers at the crash site on Tuesday and take photographs to give to the families.

Their grief has been compounded by the absence of their loved ones' bodies.

The BBC's Nick Bryant: "At the water's edge, they bid their loved ones goodbye"
Abdulla el-Mahrouky, who lost his sister, Maha el-Mahrouky, an airline attendant, decided to stay for the service but planned to leave afterwards.

"It's very difficult for me to return without a body," he said. "I want to know what happened. I don't know anything."

Weather hampers salvage

Rough weather has forced US Navy crews to suspend their attempts to recover the flight recorders of the airliner.

A spokesman said the effort was not likely to resume until late Monday or Tuesday.

On Saturday, improved weather conditions had allowed the USS Grapple to resume operations with its Deep Drone undersea robot for about 10 hours.

The BBC's Jane Ball: " The planes two black boxes still haven't been brought to the surface"
The recorders, whose data could be vital to the crash investigation, are lying roughly 75 metres (250 feet) under water amid small pieces of wreckage on a flat sandy bottom.

During earlier operations on Friday, the "pings" from the locator beacons were so loud, technicians tore off their earphones - a sign they were within feet of the crucial recorders.

[ image: Deep Drone is used in preference to divers]
Deep Drone is used in preference to divers
But an attempt to snare the boxes failed because they were apparently buried under wreckage or other matter at the bottom of the sea, said a navy spokesman.

The Boeing 767 crashed less than an hour into its flight from New York to Cairo.

Radar analysis has showed the plane briefly climbed out of a high speed dive, before possibly disintegrating in mid-air.

The data shows the aircraft plunging 16,300ft (about 5,000 metres) from its cruising altitude of 33,000ft at almost supersonic speeds before climbing and then diving again.

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