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Saturday, September 5, 1998 Published at 02:38 GMT 03:38 UK

World: Americas

Switzerland mourns air crash dead

Relatives of the victims have travelled to the coast near the crash site

Saturday has been declared a day of national mourning in Switzerland, following the Swissair crash off Canada's east coast on Wednesday that killed 229 people.

Tom Carver reports on mourners' sad journey to Nova Scotia
A religious service will be held in Geneva's St Pierre cathedral on Saturday evening, to remember the victims of the disaster. A candle will be lit for each person who died.

On Friday afternoon, rescuers announced that there was now no hope of finding any survivors of the crash, and have turned their attention to establishing the causes of the disaster.

[ image:  ]
Meanwhile, grieving relatives of those killed in the crash have begun arriving in the small town of Peggy's Cove in Nova Scotia.

Many of them have visited the coast near the site of the crash to try and come to terms with the tragedy, and to begin the grim task of identifying their loved ones.

Swissair has offered immediate payouts of $20,000 to relatives ahead of any compensation due under international law.

The airline has also offered $3,000 in expenses to victims' families flying to Canada from Geneva, Zurich and New York.

[ image: Joe La Motta]
Joe La Motta
The flight was carrying 215 passengers and 14 crew when it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. Those on board included senior United Nations officials and a Saudi prince.

Joe LaMotta, son of former middleweight boxing champion Jake LaMotta, was also on the aircraft.

Search for causes

Tom Carver reports on the rescue operation
The investigators' attention may now focus on the aircraft's electrical system.

Our correspondent Tom Carver reports that the United States Federal Aviation Authority issued a warning two years ago about faulty cockpit wiring in McDonnell Douglas MD-11s.

It was said that the faults might cause a fire if not rectified. It is not known whether Swissair acted on this warning.

[ image: The grim task begins of identifying victims]
The grim task begins of identifying victims
The two flight recorders have not yet been found, despite a naval submarine search.

Investigators said their work on Friday was being hampered by people taking unauthorised boats on to the crash site, apparently hunting for ghoulish souvenirs.

The airliner was en route from New York's John F Kennedy Airport to Geneva when it plunged into the sea just 10 minutes from Halifax airport.

Airline officials have told how the pilots issued frantic distress calls as smoke filled the cockpit.

Some passengers donned life vests during the several minutes before the jumbo jet crashed in choppy seas.

So far about 60 bodies have been retrieved along with a tragic cargo of debris including children's toys, sodden luggage and a water-swollen Bible.


[ image:  ]
Swissair has set up teams of counsellors in Geneva, Zurich and New York to help grieving relatives.

Swissair said on Friday that 131 Americans were among the victims. The others who died included 30 French, 28 Swiss, six British, three Germans, three Italians and two Greeks.

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Internet Links

Government of Nova Scotia

Canadian Transportation Safety Board

Boeing/McDonnell Douglas: The MD-11


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