Tearful crash victims' relatives gather at airport

BARCELONA (AFP) - Tearful relatives of passengers of the German airliner that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday gathered grieving at Barcelona and Duesseldorf airports as officials announced none of the 150 people on board survived.

Several dozen relatives, some crying and shaking their heads, arrived at Barcelona's El Prat airport after news that the flight which took off there in the morning for Duesseldorf had crashed.

Police at the remote crash site in southeastern France said everyone on board was killed when the Airbus 320 operated by Lufthansa's budget carrier Germanwings went down.

In Barcelona, three couples and four men, visibly shaken, were among those who arrived at the airport and were taken to a room set up for them by police officers, who kept journalists at bay.

An elegantly dressed man in his 60s tried to hide his tears behind sunglasses.

Another man in his 30s looked down at the ground weeping and repeatedly shook his head. A woman of the same age accompanying him stared straight ahead as a policeman led her by the arm.

Two German consular officials in bright yellow vests were ushered through by police to join the grieving families.

Psychologists and social workers were attending to the families at Barcelona airport, Red Cross spokeswoman Irene Peiro said.

"When they are told the news they have grief and trauma and we try to minimise as much as possible these traumatic, anxious and uncertain moments," she said.

At Duesseldorf airport, relatives of the passengers were ushered by airline staff out of the way of waiting reporters.

A group of police stood guard around the Lufthansa Germanwings stand but Lufthansa check-in desks were operating normally.


In the town of Llinars de Valles, north of Barcelona, local mayor Marti Pujol said pupils were in shock at a local high school where 16 of the passengers on the plane had just attended an exchange programme.

"We have the Red Cross and psychologists there. The teachers were in the school and are looking after the children. This affects the whole school, which has more than 400 pupils," said Pujol.

In the German school party, "there were 16 children and two teachers who had spent a week here, poor things. The children were aged about 15," he told AFP.

French officials said there was no hope of finding survivors from the jet which crashed in a remote spot in the ski resort area of Barcelonnette.

A witness who was skiing near the crash site told French television he "heard an enormous noise" around the time of the disaster.

A French police helicopter dispatched to the site of the crash reported spotting debris in a mountain range at an altitude of 1,400m.

Spain's King Felipe VI and his wife Letizia happened to be in France on a state visit, which they immediately cut short.

"We know the number of victims is extremely high - a large number of them Spaniards, Germans, but also Turks," the King said.

Spain's Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria told public television TVE there were 45 people with Spanish-sounding surnames on board the plane but it was not immediately clear how many were Spanish citizens.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he had set up a crisis cell to deal with the disaster, calling it "tragic and sad news", and that he would visit the scene on Wednesday.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the authorities "can't rule out any theory" on the cause of the disaster.

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