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Southern Russian city grieves after jet crash kills 62




Tearful residents in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Sunday laid flowers and lit candles at the airport where a flydubai passenger jet crashed a day earlier killing all 62 people on board.

A constant stream of mourners flocked to near the site where the Boeing 737 ploughed into the earth as it was trying to land in bad weather early Saturday, with the city of some 1 million struggling to come to terms with Russia’s latest air tragedy.

“Everyone is grieving, the worst pain is for the relatives, the irreparable loss, but we are also really in grief,” Svetlana, a middle-aged shop assistant, told AFP with tears in her eyes.

“The whole city is mourning and we will remember and honour the dead. I feel really sorry for the passengers on the flight, I felt that we had to come here.”

People stood crossing themselves in near total silence before a makeshift shrine at the airport entrance as they read the names of the 55 passengers and seven crew members — 44 of them Russian — who lost their lives.

Onboard flight FZ981 were four children, 35 women and 23 men from nine different countries including Ukraine, Spain, India, Cyprus, the Seychelles, Colombia, Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan.

A young woman named Irina, who lived near the airport, told AFP how she saw the plane crash shortly before 0400 local time (0100 GMT) on Saturday as she got up to close a window.

“It was making a droning noise and flying very low, then five seconds later there was an explosion,” Irina said.

“I could see it was flying off to the side a bit.”

— Why not diverted? —

Investigators were on Sunday trawling the crash site for clues after a criminal probe was opened to look into whether pilot error, a technical fault or bad weather was to blame.

The jet, which was flying in from Dubai, exploded into a fireball after missing the runway in bad weather as it was reportedly making its second attempt to land after circling for several hours.

Some of the mourners asked why the plane had not been diverted to other neighbouring airports given that the weather conditions were so bad.

“The question that people are asking is why the pilot didn’t fly to Krasnodar or Mineralnye Vody,” said Yekaterina, a young woman in a colourful headscarf.

Russia has suffered a string of air disasters over the past decade both at home and abroad in recent years.

The most recent was in October last year, when a passenger jet on its way from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort to Saint Petersburg was brought down by a bomb in the Sinai Peninsula.

Now on Sunday it was the turn of the people of Rostov-on-Don — some 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) south of Moscow — to mourn for the dead.

“I wouldn’t wish such a disaster on any city on Earth,” security guard Stepan Apetri told AFP.

“I wouldn’t wish such grief on any city.”

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