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Monday, November 1, 1999 Published at 10:58 GMT


Families mourn the missing

A Egyptian woman cries at Cairo airport.

Passengers aboard Flight 990 included Egyptian grandparents visiting their American grandchildren, retired people heading for a Nile cruise, a Sudanese importer returning home, and a Canadian newspaper executive and his wife on a trip to the pyramids.

The loss of flight 990
All 217 people on the EgyptAir flight from Los Angles to Cairo are believed to have perished when the Boeing 767 fell into the Atlantic Ocean off Nantucket on Sunday.

Searchers have so far found debris scattered across the sea, but no sign of survivors.

The BBC's Jane Hughes in Rhode Island: "No one expects to find any survivors"
Authorities have yet to release a passenger list, but said there were 62 Egyptians, 129 Americans, three Canadians, and people from Sudan, Syria and Chile aboard.

Relatives and friends gathered at a hotel near John F Kennedy International Airport, and later at mosques in New York and Los Angeles.

Half a world away, Cairo woke up to the news that no survivors had yet been found.

Homeward bound

Abdel-Rahman Amin, the owner of a coffee factory, and his wife, Alia Abdou, had been visiting their son, Dr Talaat Abdalmoneim of Brooklyn.

[ image: Adel Shehata holds a photo of his cousin, Samay Makarey, left, who was aboard the flight.]
Adel Shehata holds a photo of his cousin, Samay Makarey, left, who was aboard the flight.
But the couple, in their 60s, were eager to return to Egypt for the birth of their eleventh grandchild. They had nearly missed the flight, chatting with their son over coffee before heading to the airport.

Just hours after Hisham Elzanaty, 40, of Searingtown, New York, put his parents on their plane home to Cairo, he was awakened with the news that their flight was missing.

"We spent last night together until one in the morning. They prayed for us, and we wished them a safe flight," he said.

Among those consoling the grief-stricken relatives were New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and an EgyptAir executive.

[ image: An undated file photo of co-pilot Hatem Rushdy.]
An undated file photo of co-pilot Hatem Rushdy.
At the Islamic Centre of Southern California, more than 200 people chanted "Allahu Akbar," praying for the two EgyptAir pilots who attended the mosque during Los Angeles stopovers.

One was Hatem Rushdy, said mosque member Aboubakr El-Tawansy.

He had known Mr Rushdy for about five years, since the pilot helped his daughter on a flight from Los Angeles to Egypt.

"He upgraded her seats because she wasn't breathing well in a smoking area and was very generous with her," Mr El-Tawansy said.

"Since she heard the news, she's been crying and crying."

Trip of a lifetime

The passengers included 54 people, all over age 50, bound for Cairo on a 14-day tour. Most came from Colorado, Arizona and the Pacific Northwest.

[ image: Airport workers comfort a grieving relative.]
Airport workers comfort a grieving relative.
In Montreal, Canada, shocked colleagues remembered Claude Masson, deputy publisher of Montreal La Presse.

Mr Masson and his wife, Jeannine Bourdages, both 58, parents of two grown sons, planned a week in Egypt and two more in Israel.

It was a place he always wanted to see, La Presse managing editor, Marcel Desjardins said.

Norm and Joan Shapiro and Larry and Edith Kowalsky, all of suburban Detroit, were said to be on the flight and travelling together on vacation.

"That was their thing," Elliot Shepard, a friend of both couples.

"They wanted to see the world before it was too late."

EgyptAir telephone number for concerned relatives is +1 800 243 1094.

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