Families of EgyptAir victims struggle to accept loss

Sunday 22-05-2016 01:40 PM

Relatives of the victims of the missing EgyptAir flight MS804 hold an absentee funeral prayer in a mosque nearby Cairo airport, in Cairo Egypt May 20, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer

CAIRO (Reuters) - Amal sits in the lobby of a hotel staring out at Cairo airport. Face tight with exhaustion, eyes puffy.

She is hoping her daughter Samar Ezzedine, a stewardess aboard an EgyptAir flight that crashed into the Mediterranean on Thursday, will walk through the arrivals door.

"She doesn’t want to go home or move from the door," Samar's aunt, Mona, said. "She doesn’t want to believe it... I told her to switch off her phone, but she said, what if Samar calls?”

The 27-year-old newlywed is among the 66 people thought to have been killed when the jet crashed on its way from Paris to Cairo.

Egypt said on Saturday the navy had found human remains, wreckage and the personal belongings of passengers floating in the Mediterranean about 290 km (180 miles) north of Alexandria.

But bodies have yet to emerge or be identified. DNA tests are under way on the few remains that have so far been recovered.

The cause of the crash remains a mystery and search crews have yet to locate the black box flight recorders.

EgyptAir has put up the families of dead passengers and crew members in two hotels near Cairo's airport but many have gone home to receive condolences for the loss of their loved ones.

Dozens of people dressed in black flocked to a mosque in western Cairo on Saturday night to express condolences to the family of Ismail Chabana and his mother, Youmna Hamdy.

Chatter filled the hall about the causes of the crash. Tears rolled down mourners faces.

"I really hope the plane exploded, it doesn’t matter if they are in shreds, as long as they did not suffer for a long time,” one woman said.

Chabna, an engineer in his late 20s, was in France for a wedding, Nesma Khatib, his friend and neighbor, said. He had recently gotten engaged.

"I never thought this could happen to someone I know," Khatib said. "I was just talking to him; I can't believe he's gone."

The aircraft was carrying 56 passengers, including a child and two infants, and 10 crew. They included 30 Egyptian and 15 French nationals, along with citizens of 10 other countries.

French families have arrived in Cairo, but Egyptian officials are keeping them away from the media glare.

Marwa Hamdy, a mother of three, who was on a business trip in France, was another of those who on board the doomed flight.

"My heart sank,” her cousin Sherine Abdel Hamid told Reuters by phone, describing the first moment she learned the plane had crashed.

Hamdy was 42, her youngest son only nine years old. He finally understood on Friday that his mother would not come home. "He has been very quiet since," her cousin said.

But back in the hotel lobby, Amal, is refusing to accept condolences. "She is missing, who hosts a funeral for a missing person?" she murmurs. 

(Editing by Lin Noueihed and Anna Willard)

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