Families struggle to accept loss as Egypt expands plane search

A woman at a memorial service in a Cairo church on Sunday for those on the flight. An image grab from a video uploaded on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian military spokesman on May 21 shows some debris that the search teams have found in th
An image grab from a video uploaded on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian military spokesman on May 21 shows some debris that the search teams have found in the sea.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A woman at a memorial service in a Cairo church on Sunday for those on the flight. An image grab from a video uploaded on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian military spokesman on May 21 shows some debris that the search teams have found in th
A woman at a memorial service in a Cairo church on Sunday for those on the flight.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Flight recorders, bodies have yet to be found from EgyptAir crash

CAIRO • Madam Amal sits in the lobby of a hotel staring out at Cairo Airport. Face tight with exhaustion, eyes puffy.

She is hoping her daughter, Ms Samar Ezzedine, a stewardess aboard an EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean last Thursday, will walk through the arrivals door.

"She doesn't want to go home or move from the door," Ms Samar's aunt, Madam Mona, said.

"She doesn't want to believe it... I told her to switch off her phone, but she said, 'What if Samar calls?'"

The 27-year-old newly-wed is among the 66 people thought to have been killed when the jet crashed en route from Paris to Cairo.

Egypt's army has released both images and video footage of Flight 804 debris that show an intact yellow life jacket lying beside wrecked seat cushioning, tattered clothes and EgyptAir-branded metal plane parts, quashing hopes of finding any survivors.

REST IN PEACE

I really hope the plane exploded. It doesn't matter if they are in shreds, as long as they did not suffer for a long time.

A WOMAN AT A CAIRO MEMORIAL, on how the plane could have crashed.

STILL HOPING FOR THE BEST

She is missing. Who hosts a funeral for a missing person?

MADAM AMAL, on her daughter, stewardess Samar Ezzedine.

The authorities piecing together what happened to the doomed Flight 804 will get the support of a submarine as they continue their search for data records and more debris. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ordered the expansion of the search five days after the Airbus A-320 went down over the Mediterranean Sea.

Mr Ehab Azmy, head of Egypt's National Air Navigation Services, denied a report by French television channel M6.

Citing unidentified French aviation officials, M6 reported that the pilot had a conversation "several minutes long" with Cairo control about the smoke in parts of the aircraft and decided to make an emergency descent to clear the fumes.

The investigation is critical for Egypt, whose tourism industry suffered a major blow after a Russian passenger jet crashed in the Sinai peninsula last October. But Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed said last week's crash is unlikely to affect government plans to attract millions of visitors next year.

The few clues that have surfaced so far from the wreckage offer no clear direction. The initial investigation report will be released in a month, Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported, citing probe head Ayman El-Mokadem.

No bodies have yet to emerge or be identified. DNA tests are under way on the few remains that have so far been recovered.

The cause of the crash remains a mystery and search crews have yet to locate the flight recorders.

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers, including a child and two infants, and 10 crew. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, along with citizens of 10 other countries.

EgyptAir has put up the victims' families in two hotels near Cairo's airport but many have gone home to receive condolences for the loss of their loved ones.

Memorial services for some crew members and passengers on the flight took place in Cairo and other towns over the weekend.

Dozens of people dressed in black flocked to a mosque in Cairo on Saturday night to express condolences to the family of Mr Ismail Chabana and his mother, Madam Youmna Hamdy.

"I really hope the plane exploded. It doesn't matter if they are in shreds, as long as they did not suffer for a long time,"one woman said.

Mr Chabana, an engineer in his late 20s, was in France for a wedding. He had recently got engaged.

But back in the hotel lobby, Madam Amal, is refusing to accept condolences. "She is missing. Who hosts a funeral for a missing person?" she murmurs.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2016, with the headline 'Families struggle to accept loss as Egypt expands plane search'. Print Edition | Subscribe