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Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 11:55 GMT 12:55 UK
Germany in grief
Reichstag building/flags
Flags at half-mast on the German parliament in Berlin
Flags are flying at half-mast across Germany as the nation mourns the 113 people - 96 of them Germans - who died in the Concorde disaster.

A religious service for the dead and their relatives was held on Thursday at Neustadt, a small Baltic port town north-east of Hamburg, where the tour operator Deilmann Cruises is based.

The 96 German victims - 49 male and 47 female, including three children - were flying to New York to join a Caribbean cruise organised by Deilmann.

The victims' bodies will not be returned to Germany for some time because of difficulties in identifying the remains, the German Transport Minister, Reinhard Klimmt, told the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper.

victims' relatives
Victims' relatives have been getting counselling in Paris

Rescue services at the crash site in Gonesse, just north of Paris, had recovered the badly burned remains of 105 bodies by late on Wednesday.

Mr Klimmt, who is helping the relatives in Paris, said the French authorities were doing all they could to hasten identification.

The German Interior Minister, Otto Schily, on Wednesday ordered that flags be flown at half-mast on official buildings throughout the country.

Relatives of the dead have visited Gonesse, travelling on special Air France flights at the expense of the airline.

The Air France Concorde plunged into a hotel just minutes after taking off from Charles de Gaulle airport on Tuesday afternoon, killing all 100 passengers, nine crew and four people on the ground.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his government attended a special inter-faith religious ceremony in Hanover on Wednesday.

City's loss

The western German city of Moenchengladbach has been grieving the loss of some of its leading citizens.

The 13 victims from the city included the director of a business school, a furniture store owner and the head of a security company.

wreaths at crash site
Identifying some of the remains is proving difficult

Kurt Kahle, 51, died in the crash with his 37-year-old wife and son Michael, aged eight. Mr Kahle ran a private business school. "He was well liked, always laughed and had a smile. He knew how to live life to the full," said a friend, Dieter Beines.

The Munich carmaker BMW confirmed that six members of a family were among the victims - Christian Eich, 57, an engineer who ran the company's museum, his wife and two children and his wife's parents.

Chancellor Schroeder said Germany was "shattered and stunned" by the disaster.

Keen travellers

The crash is not the worst in the country's history.

Germans made up most of the 189 people killed when a plane crashed off the Dominican Republic in 1996.

Germans are renowned for their travelling and spending on tourism.

Last year, they spent nearly $43bn abroad.

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See also:

26 Jul 00 | Europe
Germany mourns Concorde victims
26 Jul 00 | Europe
Engine trouble delayed Concorde
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