Armenia Mourns Victims of Caspian Plane Crash

mourning caspian victimsYEREVAN (RFE/RL)–National flags in Armenia flew at half-mast on Thursday for the victims, including many Armenians, of a plane crash in Iran the previous day.

A Caspian Airlines Tupolev aircraft operating a Tehran-Yerevan flight crashed shortly after takeoff on Wednesday, hitting the ground outside the northwestern Iranian city of Qazvin and killing all 153 passengers and 15 crew members on board. Among those killed in the air crash were also some 40 Armenians, including one child – five of them citizens of the Republic of Armenia. Most of the victims were Iranians.

By his Wednesday order, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian declared a day of national mourning for July 16.

Senior diplomats of foreign countries accredited in Armenia came to the Foreign Ministry office in capital Yerevan to sign a condolence book.

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Seyed Ali Saghaeyan was the first to come. He expressed his deepest condolences to the people of Armenia and Iran over the tragedy.

“I have asked God for mercy and peace for the souls of the dead, and spiritual strength and patience to their families,” said Saghaeyan.

U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch also came to sign the condolence book.

“I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to the families of those who were lost on the Tehran-Yerevan flight yesterday. This is a tragedy,” said the U.S. ambassador. “Our hearts go out to all of them. And I say this on behalf of the American people as well as on behalf of the U.S. government.”

The condolence book will be available for signing at the Iranian Embassy in Yerevan on Friday. Also, a commemoration ceremony was planned at the Iranian Blue Mosque in central Yerevan late on Thursday.

Meanwhile, dozens of family members of those who were lost in the plane crash were flown from Yerevan to Tehran. Many of them will visit the site of the plane crash to pay tribute to their loved ones.

Mohamad Izaju, a 33-year-old father-of-two who was among those killed in the crash, would come to Armenia twice a month for medical treatment, said his relative at Yerevan airport Zvartnots.

Nehdi Zohradi told RFE/RL: “He had some respiratory problems. He lived in Tehran where the climate is not so good for people experiencing such health problems. He had been told to go for treatment abroad and he chose Armenia.”

One Iranian-Armenian woman going to Tehran could not check her tears as she cried for her close relatives lost in the plane crash.

“My sister and her children were coming. They never made it [to Yerevan],” said the woman as she burst into tears. “Her parents and husband are there. Their family has been ruined.”

A doctor on duty at Zvartnots airport told RFE/RL that eight of those leaving for Tehran in the afternoon needed medical assistance.

“They are in deep stress and their health problems come to surface in such conditions,” she said.

A total of 53 relatives of plane crash victims, including 17 citizens of Armenia, were taken to Tehran on board an Iranian Airlines Boeing.

A representative of Caspian Airlines that owned the aircraft and operated the flight said all expenses connected with the transportation and stay of the families in Iran would be covered.

He also added that Caspian Airlines will pay a compensation of 32,000 euros (about $45,000) to the families of each victim.

Meanwhile, the Armenian government said it will assist the families of five citizens of Armenia killed in the crash with a sum roughly equivalent to $4,100 on the account of each victim.

The Iranian authorities reported Thursday that the three black-box recorders from the Tupolev aircraft had been recovered.

Iran’s state Press TV quoted an official as saying the recovered boxes were heavily damaged in the crash but that experts were trying to retrieve vital data from them that would help determine the cause of the crash.

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