Storm will slow search for jet crash evidence Crash evidence search faces new obstacles

RELATIVES OF the victims of the EgyptAir jet that plunged into the Atlantic off Nantucket Island on Sunday passed out yesterday when they were told they may be asked to identify human fragments.

About 150 family members of those who perished in the crash gathered in a hotel in Newport, Rhode Island, where the command centre for the recovery operation has now been located. More than 70 arrived here in the early afternoon, after flying overnight to New York from Cairo.

When told by crash investigators about the condition the bodies are likely to be in, a dozen fainted while others broke down and wailed uncontrollably. Several asked to be taken by boat to the crash site, but were told that such a journey would be impossible.

Efforts to recover bodies and wreckage out at sea were being increased as forecasters warned of an approaching storm. The deteriorating conditions are likely to slow the search significantly for the next two days.

The USS Grapple, a heavy-lifting salvage vessel, arrived in Newport in the afternoon. It was due to set out to the crash site, about 60 miles south of Nantucket, last night. On board were 30 deep-sea divers who will try to reach the seabed when conditions permit.

The Navy has continued to track a "ping" signal that was apparently emanating from a "black box" data recorder.

The Grapple will also deploy a remote submersible craft to try to locate the wreckage of the Boeing 767 aircraft, which went down about 30 minutes after taking off from John F Kennedy airport, New York. All 217 on board died, including 106 Americans and 62 Egyptians. The depth of the water in the area, believed to be about 250 feet, is at the very limit of the capability of the divers, who will have to descend using a special breathing mixture. Whether the diving team would indeed be able to reach the bottom was still unclear last night. Lifting wreckage from such depths will also be difficult, although the Grapple can handle weights as heavy as 400 tons.

Among those at the Doubletree Hotel in Newport yesterday was Nada Eissa, an Egyptian living in Calgary, Canada. His sister's husband,Hesham Farouk, was an EgyptAir pilot who was travelling home from New York as a passenger on the doomed flight. Mr Eissa said his sister, who arrived here from Cairo, was still unable to accept that her husband had died. Mr Farouk was 36 and the father of three children.

"She still believes he is still alive, she has that feeling in her heart," he said. "I am very sad today, but I came here to help my sister. She is the one who needs help."

Samey Hussein told how his younger brother Ismail hadspent five and a half months with him at his California home and had left on Sunday to return to Egypt. "I want to find him, take him back home to his family, to his mother," he said. "We're just waiting to hear some news. I'm going to be here until they tell us there is nothing else you guys can do."

One woman, who identified herself as Gihan, said she had come to Newport from Egypt with her two daughters, Ranya and Soha, who were both engaged to be married to flight attendants who were on board the aircraft. Ranya said her fiance had telephoned her from his New York hotel to say the flight had been delayed by two hours. "I felt something bad," she said. "I felt it was the last time I was to talk to him."

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