Page last updated at 14:59 GMT, Thursday, 21 August 2008 15:59 UK

Spain grieves for Madrid victims


New footage of the immediate aftermath of the crash site

Spain is grieving for the 153 victims of Madrid's plane crash, as experts begin to look into why the jet crashed and burnt shortly after take-off.

The country's prime minister has visited some of the 19 survivors, while King Juan Carlos met relatives of the victims at a makeshift mortuary.

Three days of mourning have been declared and flags are at half-mast.

Of the survivors of the Spanair flight JK 5022 crash on Wednesday, several remain critically ill.

Four are in a "very serious" condition, with another listed as "serious", Spanish media reported. But five of six people classed as "serious" overnight have shown signs of improvement, the Efe news agency said.

Eight remain under observation with one only slightly injured, Spanish media said.

Relatives of the victims of Wednesday's Spanair plane crash arrive at the convention centre where the crash victims┐ remains are being held in Madrid, Spain, 21 August
The worst is the identification of the bodies. It is the end of all hope
Jesus Lopez Santana
Spanish Red Cross

The body of a baby and an adult, the two final victims of the crash, were pulled from the burnt-out wreckage of the plane on Thursday.

Two babies and 20 children were on board the flight, which was heading from Madrid to Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, according to Spanair, which released the official passenger manifest.

Spanair bosses expressed their shock and sadness at the crash, telling a news conference in Madrid that the focus of their energies would now be on helping the survivors and the relatives of those killed.

Spanair and its Scandinavian owner, SAS, were putting "all resources" into supporting those affected by the disaster, Spanair chief Marcus Hedblom said.

"We are committed to continue to give that support for a long, long time from now," he added.

At a temporary mortuary at a conference centre close to Madrid's Barajas airport, emotions among those waiting for confirmation of their loss were running high.

The BBC's Steve Kingstone, in Madrid, says many of the relatives have expressed anger and disgust at Spanair, blaming the company for the accident.

The injured include a young brother and sister, who immediately asked rescue workers about their parents, our correspondent adds.

Wreckage of the Spanair MD82, 21 August 2008 [Pic: EFE]
Examination of the wreckage began the morning after the crash

Experts say work to identify the dead is likely to be slow and painstaking, as many of the bodies were badly burnt in Wednesday's inferno.

El Mundo newspaper reported that 38 corpses had been identified by Thursday afternoon, with a team of 40 forensic analysts expected to complete the rest of the identifications within 48 hours.

"The worst is the identification of the bodies," Red Cross spokesman Jesus Lopez Santana told the El Mundo newspaper.

"It is the end of all hope and [it is] when we see the worst scenes, because the majority of the relatives break down when they hear the news."

Engine theory

The Spanair flight, bound for Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, took off on Wednesday at lunchtime with 172 people on board, among them 10 crew.

Undated picture of the McDonnell Douglas MD82 plane that crashed on Wednesday
The MD82 is known as a versatile and reliable aircraft

Initial reports suggested a fire had broken out in one of the MD82 plane's engines during or shortly after take-off, and the plane ended up in a field.

Spanish Transport Minister Magdalena Alvarez said the plane had earlier begun taxiing to the runway, before turning back because of a technical problem, which had caused an hour's delay in take-off.

Spanish media said the pilots had reported a fault with a temperature gauge, but it was thought to have been fixed before take-off.

Speaking on Thursday, Ms Alvarez said a thorough investigation would be carried out, with a full examination of the flight recorders and available pictures, but that it was very early to draw conclusions about the crash.

A special independent commission has been established to investigate the cause of the crash, Spanish media reported.

The plane which crashed was a 15-year-old McDonnell Douglas MD82 plane previously owned and operated by Korean Air.

Reports said it was serviced regularly and had been pronounced fit to fly.

The MD82 is known as a versatile and reliable aircraft, with some 432 planes currently in service around the world, Spain's EFE news agency said.

People concerned for relatives or friends who might have been on board the plane can call Spanair's helpline on +34 800 400 200 (calls possible from inside Spain only).

Map and satellite image of Madrid airport, plus MD82 graphic
Passengers 150-170
Cruise speed 504mph (811km/h)
Length 45.1m (148ft)
Height 9m (29.5ft)
Wing-span 32.8m (107.6ft)
Maximum range 2,052 nautical miles (3,798km)

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