Alps plane crash: Victims to be identified by 'end of week'

Relatives of the victims of the air crash visit the memorial in Le Vernet, south-eastern, France, 30 March 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Families of the victims are awaiting the official identification of their loved ones

All 150 victims of the Germanwings crash will be identified by the end of the week, French President Francois Hollande has said.

Experts collected DNA samples from the crash site, which will now be tested to verify passengers' identities.

An access road to the site in the French Alps has also been completed to speed up the recovery of remains.

Meanwhile, Lufthansa has put aside an additional $300m (€280m; £200m) to cover costs associated with the crash.

Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings, said the money would cover "all costs arising in connection with the case".

Germany says that the cash is separate from the €50,000 ($54,250; £36,720) available to the relatives of each passenger to cover short-term expenses.

Airlines are obliged to compensate relatives for proven damages of up to a limit of about $157,000 (€135,000; £145,000), regardless of what caused the crash. Higher compensation is possible if an airline is held liable.

None of the victims were found intact after the plane's 700kph (430mph) impact, but different strands of DNA have been identified at the site.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Forensic scientists have collected dozens of DNA samples from the scene of the disaster
Image copyright AP
Image caption Candles and flowers were left at Duesseldorf airport in memory of the victims

Earlier on Tuesday, the head of the criminal research institute at France's National Gendarmerie was reported as saying that DNA identification of the victims would take two to four months.

But Mr Hollande said the French interior minister had confirmed that the process would be completed "by the end of the week at the latest".

Speaking at a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, Mr Hollande said "exceptional scientific work" had been carried out by the recovery team.

Germanwings flight 4U 9525 crashed near the French Alpine village of Le Vernet on 24 March, flying from Barcelona to Duesseldorf.

The cockpit voice recorder suggested co-pilot Andreas Lubitz flew into a mountainside deliberately after locking pilot Patrick Sondenheimer out of the cockpit.

All 150 people on board the aircraft were killed.

Rescuers have warned the operation to remove their remains could take several months, but the access road would "accelerate the work", said Philippe Sansa of the rescue service.

"It will be much easier not to have to depend on the weather," he told the Associated Press news agency.

Andreas Lubitz: Germanwings co-pilot

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Andreas Lubitz left no letter, investigators say
  • Started training in 2008, at Bremen and Arizona. Training was interrupted for some months - but he later passed all tests and was deemed fit to fly
  • Working as co-pilot, or first officer, since 2013. Appeared pleased with his job
  • Lived in town of Montabaur, near Frankfurt, reportedly with his parents. Kept a flat in Duesseldorf and had many friends
  • Facebook profile suggests the active lifestyle of a keen runner, with an interest in pop music

Who was Andreas Lubitz?

On Monday it emerged that Lubitz, 27, had at one point received treatment for suicidal tendencies before getting his pilot licence.

Lufthansa says that Lubitz's medical records were subject to doctor-patient confidentiality and it had no knowledge of their contents.

The company has announced it has cancelled plans to celebrate its 60th anniversary on 15 April.

On 17 April, the airline will broadcast live coverage of a state memorial service at Cologne Cathedral.

The data recorder, which tracks the plane's altitude, speed and direction, has not yet been found.

Lufthansa board chairman Kay Kratky on Monday warned it may have been too badly damaged and may not be sending signals.

Unanswered questions

What drives people to murder-suicide?

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