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ETHIOPIA AIR CRASH: Families given soil for burial

A relative puts soil on her face as she mourns at the scene of the crash (PHOTO/Reuters)

ADDIS ABABA – Grieving family members of those who died in the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash have been given sacks of soil from the crash site to bury in place of the remains of their loved ones.

On Sunday, March 10, the Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed six minutes after taking off from Addis Ababa airport en route to Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

One week after, officials began delivering one-kilogramme sacks of scorched earth taken from the crash site because identification process for the bodies is taking too long, members of two different families told the Associated Press news agency as reported by Aljazeera.

“The soil came as it became impossible to identify bodies and hand over remains to family members,” one family member said. “We will not rest until we are given the real body or body parts of our loved ones.”

An Ethiopian government official, who also asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to reporters, confirmed the deliveries of soil.

Forensic DNA work has begun on identifying the remains but it may take six months to identify the victims, because the body parts are in small pieces.

However, authorities say they will issue death certificates of the victims that came from 35 countries within two weeks.

Mass memorial

Thousands of people turned out for a mass memorial service for the dead in Addis Ababa on Sunday, one week after the crash.

Some victims’ relatives fainted and fell to the ground during the procession through the Ethiopian capital.

Coffins of Ethiopian passengers and crew members are arranged during a memorial service at the Selassie Church in Addis Ababa (PHOTO/Reuters)

Banks of the white flowers, the traditional colour of mourning, were placed in front of a row of empty coffins at the ceremony.

Interpol and Blake Emergency Services, hired by Ethiopian Airlines, will work with Ethiopian police and health officials to identify the bodies, Dagmawit Moges, Ethiopia’s minister of transport said on Saturday.

“Preparation for the identification process has already started and we will make sure that the post-mortem investigation will start as soon as possible,” she said.

Experts from the US National Transportation Safety Board and the plane’s manufacturer Boeing are among those involved in the investigation.

In Paris, investigators are examining flight recorders to determine why the aircraft plunged into a field shortly after the takeoff from Addis Ababa, searching for similarities to an October Lion Air crash that killed 189 people.

Both crashes involved the same model of the plane – Boeing 737 MAX 8 – causing aviation authorities to ground the model around the world after the last week’s accident.

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