Russia completes search operations at plane crash site

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Moscow, March 20 (IANS) Russian workers on Sunday completed search and rescue operations at the Dubai Aviation Corporation (FlyDubai) passenger plane crash site, Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said.

“Russian Emergency Situations Ministry finished the search and rescue operation by 9.00 a.m. (Moscow time),” Tass news agency quoted Sokolov as saying on Sunday.

He said that a meeting of the governmental commission, consisting of federal and regional authorities, was held to discuss how to deal with the accident.

“Today (Sunday), during the daylight all necessary elements of the plane will be collected for a thorough analysis to make clear causes of the accident,” he added.

“Around 6.00 p.m. (local time) works will begin on the runway to restore the equipment, so that the airport could begin working on Monday morning,” Sokolov said..

Deputy Emergency Situations Minister Leonid Belyaev said the search area near the Rostov-on-Don airport, located in Russia, was extended to 15 hectares for recheck.

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Belyaev noted that his ministry would continue identification of the bodies, collecting DNA samples and working with the families of the victims.

According to the ministry, medical experts have begun examining remains of the victims and identification work would take at least two weeks “if everything goes smoothly”.

The ministry said that it had contacted 76 relatives of the victims as of Sunday morning, while experts were collecting DNA samples of the relatives who arrived in Rostov-on-Don.

Experts of the Interstate Aviation Committee (IAC), a supervising body overseeing the management of civil aviation in the commonwealth of independent states, have also arrived in the city for further investigation.

Meanwhile, experts of the Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety of France and the US National Transportation Safety Board are due to arrive for assistance of the crash investigation.

Early on Sunday, the two flight recorders of the crashed plane were sent to Moscow and taken to the IAC for decoding, with participation of officials from the Air Accident Investigation Department of the UAE.

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Russian authorities said the aircraft was landing amid high winds and rain that reduced visibility, while the investigative committee was considering several versions of the crash, including a crew mistake, technical failure and difficult weather conditions.

A source with the Emergency Situations Ministry said the passenger jet came down nose-first practically vertically at an angle of 60 degrees, exploded when hitting the ground and caught fire. Bits of the plane and debris were strewn across the runway.

“Even the most durable parts of the plane, the gear trucks made from magnesium, were crashed into pieces,” the source said.

The low-cost airline said in a statement that a payment of $20,000 per passenger would be made to the victims’ families.

“At present, our priority is to identify and contact the families of those lost in Saturday’s tragic accident and provide immediate support to those affected,” said the statement.

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The Boeing 737-800 passenger plane, en route from the UAE city of Dubai to Rostov-on-Don, crashed around 3.50 a.m. (Moscow time) on Saturday at the Russian city’s airport, killing all 62 people aboard.

Ghaith Al-Ghaith, the chief executive of FlyDubai, said on Sunday that the investigations showed the pilot and co-pilot of the crashed plane in Russia decided to land on the best information they had and the airport authorities gave green light for landing.

Following media speculative reports on whether the weather conditions made the landing “risky” at Rostov-on-Don international airport, Al-Ghaith said: “It’s not our call whether the airport should have been closed.”

Al-Ghaith expressed his “high praise” for the Russian authorities as they were fully cooperative.

Also, the flight recorders of the passenger plane are badly damaged, authorities said on Sunday.

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