Monday, June 8, 2009

Gruesome finds from flight 447 emerging from the sea

from Earth Times
June 8, 2009

Sao Paulo - After searching the open seas for days on end, the Brazilian navy is finding more and more victims of the fatal Air France flight 447 in the Atlantic. Six dead passengers had been recovered from the by water Sunday afternoon, 17 by evening. The figures will continue to rise, as more bodies have been spotted by the Brazilian Air Force. Relatives have been informed in Rio de Janeiro about the finds. But for them, there's little relief when unbearable waiting is ended by dreadful certainty.

Nevertheless, now the relatives of the 228 passengers at least know approximately where their loved ones died.

Brazilian teams have retrieved nine bodies, while French teams recovered eight, Brazilian Air Force spokesman Henry Munhoz said on Sunday.

The Brazilian recovery frigate Constituicao was on its way to the island of Fernando de Noronha, where it was expected to arrive with the bodies on Tuesday at the earliest.

Four bodies on board the Constituicao were men and four were of women, Munhoz said. The sex of the other victim could not be determined after the body had floated in the Atlantic for days, he said.

Munhoz said other bodies and hundreds of objects had been sighted but the priority was to recover the victims.

There was "no doubt" that the debris and the bodies came from the missing plane, he said.

The bodies were to receive an initial examination on Fernando de Noronha, about 350 kilometres from the mainland. They then would be flown to Recife, where the process of identification would begin.

Judging from previous experience, the identification process is lengthy. Hair and blood samples were taken from the relatives of the victims for DNA-comparison, which can take weeks.

The relatives are being accommodated in the Windsor Hotel in Barra da Tijuca, a somewhat secluded quarter of Rio.

On Saturday, when the first bodies were found after days of anxious waiting and disbelief, certainty settled in for the first time. The announcement of Brazil's defence minister, Nelson Jobim, on Tuesday that the plane had crashed in the area "without doubt" contradicted confusing information for several days when the first finds turned out to be errors.

Now, on day seven after the crash nobody, except for a few relatives, is still talking about survivors. "The search for bodies now has top priority", says the spokesperson of the air force. The recovery of the wreckage would follow after that.

On Saturday, media reports said that one of the victims had been found floating on the sea still fastened to his seat by the seatbelt, something which air force spokesmen later denied. The air force then advised the press from making such announcements, which only put more strain on grieving relatives.

At the Windsor Hotel some families are still clinging on to the hope that their relatives might have survived the catastrophe. "My son is somewhere (out there), and somebody has to find him. Please don't say that I am crazy. It is the belief of a mother", says pensioner Maria Eva Marinho, whose son was on board the doomed plane. His father shares this hope: "There may be a chance. Miracles happen," he said.

Likewise the father of Prince Pedro Luis de Orleans e Braganca, a member of the Brazilian royal family, does not want to give up hope. "But it is believing, without believing", he told a local newspaper. He was prepared for the worst.

Many of the families fear that their relatives' last resting place might be the bed of the Atlantic, more than 3,000 metres down.

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