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Thursday, September 3, 1998 Published at 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK

World: Americas

Relatives gather at Geneva and JFK

Geneva airport has set up a crisis centre to help friends and relatives

Families and friends of those on Swissair flight 111 have begun arriving at both Geneva airport, the flight's intended destination, and New York's John F Kennedy airport from where the plane departed.

In Geneva, a crisis centre has been set up at the city's Cointrin airport for victims' relatives.

The centre, staffed by police and airline psychologists who were later joined by clergymen, was set up by airport officials and was offering counselling together with latest information from the crash scene.

[ image:  ]
Officers of the Swiss branch of the Salvation Army also went to the airport saying they had arrived "to share the pain" of the relatives.

"For all of us it is a very sad day," said Philippe Bruggisser, the Chief Executive of Swissair's parent company SAirGroup.

Emegency number

Swissair has set up emergency telephone lines - two in Switzerland and one in New York.

[ image: Airline officials and counsellors are on hand to meet relatives]
Airline officials and counsellors are on hand to meet relatives
The BBC correspondent in Geneva who has been at the airport says friends and relatives are being met by a team trained for such emergencies, although they have never had to deal with an emergency on this scale.

About 100 professionals are at the centre, including police psychologists, counsellors and clergy, with 30 people waiting for calls from people seeking information.

But having announced that there were no survivors, airport spokesman Philippe Roy stressed all they could do was provide "moral assistance".

Airline officials say they will not release the passenger list until all relatives have been notified, but the plane's route is thought to be popular with officials from the United Nations who travel between offices in New York and Geneva, as well as private bankers.

New York

At JFK airport in New York, Port Authority officials were working through the passenger list with representatives from both Swissair and Delta airlines.

[ image: Port Authority officials are managing the crisis centre at JFK]
Port Authority officials are managing the crisis centre at JFK
A lounge has been set up in the Delta Terminal, which is shared with Swissair, and members of the Red Cross and officials from the Swiss embassy were on hand to help relatives cope with the news.

"Our first priority are the families," said Inspector Anthony Infante of the Port Authority Police Department.

"I believe about 15 families are here," he said. "I'm sure the number will increase."

At a news conference in the city, New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said about 184 of the 215 passengers had New York as their flight origin, the others were on a connecting flight.

But, he said, that does not necessarily mean they lived in New York.

Mr Giuliani said the brother of a friend of his was aboard the Swissair jet. He said Swissair and Delta which operated the flight under a code-sharing agreement were handling the relatives of the crash victims in a very humane way.

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