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Relatives of Germanwings flight victims receive assistance at Barcelona El Prat Airport

Barcelona El Prat has been the main centre in Catalonia for assisting the relatives of the passengers flying on the Germanwings aircraft between the Catalan airport and Düsseldorf that crashed in the Alps this morning. 150 people were on board and, most likely, there will not be any survivors, according to French authorities. Teams of psychologists, social workers and first responders, from the Catalan Government, the Red Cross and professional associations have been deployed at Terminal 2. Lufthansa, the owner of Germanwings, attended more than 150 relatives and booked nearby hotels to host them during the upcoming days. The flight was regularly used by Germans working in Catalonia as well as by tourists. A group of 16 German high school students was on board, after spending an exchange week in the Greater Barcelona area. At least 31 Catalans were also travelling to Düsseldorf on this flight, many of them to attend a trade fair. Catalan authorities have declared 3 official days of mourning.

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24 March 2015 10:35 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Barcelona El Prat has been the main centre in Catalonia for assisting the relatives of the passengers flying on the Germanwings aircraft between the Catalan airport and Düsseldorf that crashed in the French Alps this morning. 150 people were on board of the Airbus A320 aircraft and, most likely, there will not be any survivors, according to French authorities, since the aircraft is totally destroyed and in thousands of pieces. Teams of psychologists, social workers and lifeguards, from the Catalan Police Force Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan Firefighters Corps, Catalonia's Service of Medical Emergencies, the Red Cross and professional associations have been deployed at Terminal 2. Lufthansa, which owns the low-cost Germanwings, attended more than 150 relatives. In the evening, relatives of the victims were transferred to nearby hotels booked by the airline, where they will be staying in the coming days and constantly attended to by support teams. The flight was regularly used by Germans working in Catalonia as well as by tourists. A group of 16 German high school students was on board, after spending an exchange week in the Greater Barcelona area. At least 31 Catalans were also travelling to Düsseldorf on the GWI9525 Germanwings flight, many of them to attend a trade fair.


3 days of official mourning

Catalan authorities have declared 3 official days of mourning and the Spanish Government have also approved the same measure. All the official buildings of the Catalan Government, supra-municipal bodies and town halls in Catalonia will fly their flags at half-mast in memory of the victims. In addition, all the official events and receptions have been suspended for the next 3 days.

The Vice President of the Catalan Government, Joana Ortega, travelled to the area of the accident on the same day. In addition, the Catalan President, Artur Mas, will join the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, the French President, François Hollande, and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who will visit the area on Wednesday.

Barcelona El Prat has been the focal point for attending to the relatives of the victims on the first day

The first news about the accident, which occurred around 11am, was known a few minutes before noon. The first relatives arrived at Barcelona El Prat around 1.30pm looking for information about the flight and their loved ones.

Catalan and Spanish authorities, together with the affected airline, set up an Attention Centre for the Families of the Victims in order to assist them and help them with going through the initial moments. Teams of psychologists specialised in catastrophes, social workers and first responders were formed.

The Catalan Minister for Home Affairs, Ramon Espadaler, was present at El Prat Airport and stated that "the Government's top priority is attending to the relatives". "These are dramatic moments", he added.

Such teams will be next to the relatives in the upcoming days to continue assisting them. On Wednesday, the Attention Centre for the Families of the Victims will be moved from El Prat Airport to a hotel in Castelldefels, located near the previous venue.

DNA samples, retrieved from 27 families

The scientific unit of the Mossos d'Esquadra, assisted by a team of 6 forensic doctors from the Catalan Justice Ministry, have retrieved DNA samples from 27 families for victim identification purposes. The Catalan Government has offered a team of forensic doctors to be sent to France if they are needed to identify the victims.

Besides this, a special mechanism was also established on Catalonia's Emergency Phone Service (112) to deal with relatives and friends of the Germanwings flight passengers. 300 people called on the morning of the tragedy.

High school tragedy, with 16 German students among the passengers

In addition, some support teams have been sent to other locations, such as to the IES Giola high school in Llinars del Vallès (Greater Barcelona), where a group of 16 German students and 2 teachers had spent an exchange week. They were from the Joseph König gymnasium in  Haltern am See, located some 80km from Düsseldorf. They arrived in Catalonia last Tuesday and spent the week in the house of Catalan students, who did the same a few weeks ago in Germany.

This morning, the host families took the 16 teenagers, aged around 15 years, to the train station in order to go the airport and return home. The IES Giola shut its doors after hearing the news and many students and teachers were quite affected. They have scheduled a tribute to the victims for Wednesday.

At least 31 Catalans among the 150 victims

Among the 144 passengers of the Germanwings plane there were at least 31 Catalans, although the number is likely to increase in the coming hours, awaiting further confirmations. Many of them were businesspeople working in the agri-food sector, who were travelling to Düsseldorf for a trade fair.

The Spanish Government announced that there were 45 people with "Spanish surnames" on the plane, but Germanwings released that there were 42 passengers with Spanish nationality. In addition, several of the 67 German citizens travelling on the GWI9525/4U9525 flight were working in the numerous German multinationals based in Catalonia, such as Bayer.

Besides this, two opera singers who had participated in Barcelona Liceu Theatre's performances of Wagner's 'Sigfried' were also among the victims. Baritone Oleg Bryjak and mezzo Maria Radner, together with her husband and baby, were also travelling on the Germanwings flight. The Catalan theatre flew its flags at half-mast today and will observe two minutes silence on front of the building tomorrow.

Lufthansa does know the causes of the accident yet

Lufthansa's Vice President for Europe, Heike Birlenbach, held a press conference in Barcelona El Prat and stated that she "personally didn't know" why the plane left the Catalan airport "half-an-hour late". The Germanwings flight had its departure scheduled at 09.35am but it started its journey at 10.01. However, Birlenbach refused making any speculation about the accident causes.

The aircraft was supposed to fly at 9,000 metres but the specialised website Flightradar24 lost track of it at 10.39; the aircraft was at that point flying at 2,000 metres, in an area with mountain peaks of more than 3,000 metres. The flight crashed around 11.00 near Digne-les-bains and Barcelonette (in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region).

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  • Relatives of the Germanwings flight's victims, abandoning El Prat Airport inside a bus (by P. Solà)

  • Relatives of the Germanwings flight's victims, abandoning El Prat Airport inside a bus (by P. Solà)