Special Gulf Air Flight Takes Relatives of Crash Victims to Manama
A special Gulf Air flight took off from Cairo bound for Manama Thursday, carrying relatives of those killed in a crash of a Gulf Air Airbus off Bahrain the previous night, an airport official said.
There were 162 people on board the Boeing 767, mostly relatives but also including two imams from Cairo's Al-Azhar Islamic institute, to conduct prayers for the dead, and three doctors to provide care for the grieving families.
After arriving in Bahrain, the relatives were to participate in the identification of the 143 people killed when the Airbus crashed into the Gulf near the Manama airport.
Sixty-four of those were Egyptians, more than any other nationality.
The relatives had earlier gathered somberly in a large hall at Cairo airport's new terminal, their calm silence broken by occasional outbursts of grief.
Hassan Bedaiwi, 49, sat in a chair outside of Gulf Air's office, crying as he read a newspaper. He said his younger brother, married with two children, was on the flight, coming back from a holiday and treatment for back pain in Egypt.
"He was supposed to travel today, but insisted on going yesterday instead. It was I who took him to the airport," he said.
Bedaiwi, a Bahraini, said he spoke to his brother's wife after he heard the news on the television Wednesday.
"She's destroyed. The whole family is terribly sad," he said.
Gulf Air ground staff employee Hisham Labib told AFP that four of his best friends were on the flight.
"I feel like shit," he said.
One of those friends, Ahmed Mustafa, an Egyptian co-pilot with Gulf Air who was travelling as a passenger on the plane, had just become a father for the first time, Labib said.
"His wife gave birth just two days ago and he was so happy," he said, adding that the couple had been married for around two years.
Despite official confirmation that everyone on board the Wednesday flight had been killed, some people still refused to accept the fact.
A crying man whose daughter was on the Airbus shouted out to journalists: "She is alive! She is alive, God willing!"
A woman veiled in black, whose son was among those killed, also invoked God, as many Egyptians do in times of tragedy.
"Oh my love, oh my love. God is great!" she said.
In front of the Gulf Air office, two Egyptian men clad in traditional robes cried as they waited to leave for Bahrain. They said they had headed to Cairo in the morning from the Delta region after learning that their brother and his wife were on Wednesday's plane.
Camilia Girgis, 45, said one of her friends and her husband, Nevine and Said Antone, had taken Gulf Air 072 along with their two children en route to Australia.
She said she was sure all of the bodies would be brought back.
Egyptian Transport Minister Ibrahim al-Dumeiri visited the families as they waited to take off for Bahrain, telling them the bodies of their loved ones would be brought home as soon as possible.
Asked when the bodies would be returned, he said: "I hope we shall finalize it as soon as possible, and we expect it tomorrow or after tomorrow."
For his part, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak expressed his "deep sadness and sincere condolences to the families of the victims," according to a statement released by the official MENA news agency - CAIRO (AFP)
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