Search teams sift through wreckage as holidaymakers return to the beaches
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 05 January 2004
As the beaches came to life in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh yesterday, search and recovery teams were already out on the water for the second day from first light, pulling up the remains of Egypt's worst plane crash since 1999.
Seaside hedonism, however, continued to pulse in this huddle of luxury resorts perched on the edge of Sinai's beautiful desert mountain range. This is the high season for European holidaymakers and Sharm's beaches are crowded with bronzed and bikini-clad tourists. By noon, music was pumping loudly while sunbathers set out on paddle boats, drifting past the boats reserved for local officials being carried to the site of Saturday's crash.
Some four miles offshore, near the hulk of Tiran Island, helicopters hovered over the floating wreckage while search teams pulled up "every single thing", according to Samy Hamdy, director of Sharm el-Sheikh's Search and Rescue Centre. Along with fragments of aircraft debris, personal belongings - bags, wallets, some passports - have also been recovered. Human remains, so far only body parts, are being collected at the hospital morgue.
Among the officials being taken to the crash site from Na'ama Bay were the South Sinai governor, Mustafa Afifi, the Egyptian Aviation Minister Ahmed Shafiq and the French Deputy Foreign Minister, Renaud Muselier.
M. Muselier, his face grim, was joined by local officials when he tossed a wreath of flowers wrapped in the French flag into the waters near the site.
The Search and Rescue Centre has been co-ordinating efforts to further pinpoint the location of the plane, which crashed into water 1,100 metres deep, making it impossible to dive. The debris was spread over an area two to three kilometres long and 500 metres wide. Search teams uncovered the pilot's wallet yesterday and Mr Hamdy noted that this means the cabin was destroyed, which will make the search for the crucial black box more difficult.
Initial reports suggested that sharks were hampering efforts to find passengers' remains. Mr Hamdy denied this. "We have not encountered a single fish," he said.
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