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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 January, 2004, 23:46 GMT
Crash victims' families in shock
A relative is comforted at a crisis centre in an hotel near Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport
A crisis centre for relatives has been set up
Relatives of the victims of the ill-fated Egyptian charter plane were taken swiftly to a counselling centre after arriving at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, where the plane was scheduled to land.

"My children are at Sharm. How do I find out if they were on the plane?" one man asked airport officials.

A list of passengers provided by Flash Airlines showed whole groups of people with the same family names. Many of those on board were children and included one family of seven.

All 148 people on board flight FSH604 died - 133 passengers were French, one was Moroccan and one Japanese.

We had to tell the sole survivor in a family of five or six people that the whole family was on the flight
Dr Michel Clerel
The Boeing 737 was operated by 13 Egyptian crew.

"It's terrible," Mohamed Hjiaj, whose aunt was on board told the Associated Press news agency.

"My aunt called me just before take off. The telephone cut off at one point. Something happened," Mr Hjiaj said.

He said he would go to Egypt to retrieve her body for burial in Morocco.

"We had to tell the sole survivor in a family of five or six people that the whole family was on the flight," said the chief doctor for the Paris airports authority, Michel Clerel.

"Some people accept the need to mourn and others far less - they can't absorb it. Entire families are decimated in aircraft accidents," Mr Clerel said.

Lucky escape

But some relatives - eager for any news from Egypt - burst into tears when they saw their loved ones emerging from the arrivals gate after landing safely on another plane from Sharm el-Sheik later on Saturday.

Jean-Pierre Raffarin
Raffarin was visibly shaken when he visited relatives
"We've just spent the longest three hours of our lives," Sonia Aircardi, whose relatives were supposed to be on the ill-fated Flight FSH604 but were bumped off at the last minute, told AP.

"They were to have been on the plane that crashed," she said.

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin - who raced to the airport to comfort victims' relatives - said the tragedy had saddened all of France.

"I am personally overwhelmed by this tragedy and the whole nation is touched by this dramatic accident," Mr Raffarin said.

The BBC's Caroline Wyatt
"Many children had been on the flight as families came home for the new school term"

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