ST PETERSBURG • A plane carrying the remains of 140 people killed when a Russian airliner crashed in Egypt landed in St Petersburg early yesterday, hours after investigators probing the doomed flight said it had broken up in the air.
The emergency Russian plane, the first to bring back the bodies of those who died when the A-321 plummeted from the sky above the restive Sinai Peninsula, arrived in the Pulkovo airport of Russia's second-largest city.
A second plane carrying victims of the Russian passenger jet crash was set to leave Egypt yesterday evening, Russian officials said, as relatives prepared to identify the remains of their loved ones in St Petersburg.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry said the second flight was scheduled to take off from Cairo at 1800 GMT (2am, Singapore time), but did not give any indication of how many bodies would be on board.
All 224 people on board Russian airline Kogalymavia's Flight 9268 were killed when it crashed en route from Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg last Saturday. The vast majority of the dead were Russian tourists.
Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong have written to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev respectively to convey their condolences over the crash.
"On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Singapore, I extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathies to the families and friends who have lost their loved ones," wrote Mr Lee to Mr Medvedev.
In his letter, Dr Tan wrote to Mr Putin: "Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and the people of the Russian Federation during this period of grief."
St Petersburg deputy governor Igor Albin told news agencies that Russian experts had already started work on the remains of the victims, and relatives were to start identifying them yesterday. "It will be targeted, individual work. We will invite the relatives in one by one," he said.
Family members have been providing DNA samples at a crisis centre set up close to the St Petersburg Pulkovo airport, now the site of an impromptu memorial where people have brought flowers and cuddly toys to commemorate the victims, many of them children.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS