Africa

Ethiopian Airlines: Empty coffins buried after Boeing 737 Max 8 crash

Relatives mourn next to the coffins of Ethiopian passengers and crew members, during a memorial service for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, at the Selassie Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 17, 2019. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Some family members have been given charred earth from the crash site to help remember their loved ones

Empty coffins representing the Ethiopian victims of last week's Ethiopia Airlines plane crash have been buried in the capital, Addis Ababa.

None of the bodies has yet been formally identified because of the impact when the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft crashed shortly after it took off for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, killing all 157 people on board.

Some relatives were overcome with grief, while others threw themselves on the red coffins draped with the Ethiopian flag at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.

Some family members have been given charred earth from the crash site to help remember their loved ones.

Full closure

Families have been told it could take up to six months to identify the remains.

Meanwhile, flight data from the Ethiopian Airlines disaster a week ago suggest "clear similarities" with a crash off Indonesia last October, Ethiopia's transport minister has said.

Airlines around the world have grounded their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft following the second fatal crash involving the plane in five months.

Coffins representing Ethiopian passengers and crew who perished in the Ethiopian Airways ET302 crash are lined up during a memorial service at Selassie Church on March 17, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There was a large crowd at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa
A mourner cries on the coffin of his loved one during a memorial service for the Ethiopian passengers and crew who perished in the Ethiopian Airways ET302 crash Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some relatives say they would only get full closure when at least some body parts are recovered
Portraits of victims of the crashed accident of Ethiopian Airlines are displayed during the mass funeral at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on March 17, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption The photographs and coffins are being kept in the wall vault at the cathedral
Mourners and family members escort the coffins of the Ethiopian passengers and crew who perished in the Ethiopian Airways ET302 crash to a mausoleum at Selassie Church on March 17, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa is also known as the Selassie Church

The BBC's Kalkidan Yibeltal in Addis Ababa says that temporary death certificates were issued ahead of Sunday's funeral service.

There was also a ceremony for Ethiopian Airlines staff at the city's Bole International Airport to pay their respects to the eight crew on board flight 302, Nairobi.

In Nairobi, relatives of some of the 36 Kenyan victims, as well as diplomats from some of the more than 30 countries whose citizens died in the crash, gathered to pay their respects at an Ethiopian Orthodox church in the city.

The BBC's Ferdinand Omondi, who was at the ceremony, says there was a sombre mood as candles were lit and prayers held. Many worshippers were wearing white from head to toe.

'Grief of the world'

Kenya's Transport Minister James Macharia told worshippers that bereaved families had taken bags of earth from the crash site as a memory of their loved ones.

"The Ethiopian government allowed them to take samples of the earth where they lost their loved ones and bring that soil home," he said.

But some relatives told our reporter that they would only get full closure when at least some body parts were handed over to them.

Relatives of the passengers killed in the incident are being encouraged to provide DNA samples either in Addis Ababa or at any overseas offices of Ethiopian Airlines.

Devotees hold candles during a special service for the families of the victims of the crashed Ethiopia Airlines at Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 17, 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Worshippers in Nairobi wore white and lit candles to remember the victims
Ethiopian Airlines crew members attend a memorial service for the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET 302 plane crash, at the Selassie Church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia March 17, 2019 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Ethiopian victims include the eight crew - who were remembered by their colleagues
A mourner screams for a loved one who perished in the Ethiopian Airways ET302 during a memorial service at Selassie Church on March 17, 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The cause of the crash is not yet known

Mourners at the Bole International Airport held white flowers, the traditional colour of mourning in Ethiopia, Reuters news agency reports.

"Our deep sorrow cannot bring them back," an Orthodox priest wearing a black turban and robes told the crowd gathered outside an airport hangar.

"This is the grief of the world," he said, as Ethiopian Airlines staff sobbed in each other's arms, Reuters reports.

Candles burn before a flower adorned memorial arch erected at the site of the Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crash on March 14, 2019 in Ejere, Ethiopia. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption This arch of flowers was erected at the crash site

Ethiopia's transport minister said on Saturday it might take "considerable time" for investigators to find the cause of the crash involving the new aeroplane.

"An investigation of such magnitude requires a careful analysis and considerable time to come up with something concrete," Dagmawit Moges told a news conference.

The Ethiopian investigation into the crash is being assisted by teams from around the world, including the US and France.

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