"It is a terrible tragedy"

Angela Merkel visits crash site "It is a terrible tragedy"

The Chancellor has visited the site in south France where the Germanwings Airbus A320 crashed on Tuesday. With French President François Hollande and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy she paid her respects to the victims of the plane crash.

One day after the Germanwings plane crashed, with 150 lives lost, Chancellor Angela Merkel visited the crash site, accompanied by Hannelore Kraft, state premier of North Rhine-Westphalia. From the air the Chancellor was able to see the site first hand with French President François Hollande.

At a press conference with François Hollande and Mariano Rajoy in the nearby village of Seyne-les-Alpes, Angela Merkel paid tribute to the victims of the crash. "It is a terrible tragedy – our visit here today has shown us this very clearly." She added, "I wish the families and the loved ones of all victims much strength, whether they come from Germany or from other countries."

Unprecedented willingness to help

Not only are her thoughts with the loved ones, the families and friends of the victims, said the Chancellor, "and that is what is really moving today, also the thoughts of all of the French people, and very specially of the people here in the region, who are helping with unprecedented will, incredible commitment and a big heart."

She assured the families of the victims that they would be heartily welcome at the site. "And everything possible will be done to investigate this unfathomable disaster, and establish as far as possible what happened."

The Chancellor closed with a word of thanks to the French President "And, dear François, let me say a heartfelt ‘Thank you’ on behalf of millions of Germans who appreciate what you are doing, and who realise that this is genuine Franco-German friendship."

Flags fly at half-mast in Germany

The day after the plane crash began with a one-minute silence for the victims and their families in the Cabinet meeting. Thomas de Maizière, Federal Minister of the Interior, ordered that all flags on the buildings of federal authorities should be flown at half-mast until Friday.

The Federal Chancellery has received messages of condolence from around the world. At the government press conference, deputy government spokesperson Christiane Wirtz reported that the Chancellor had been deeply moved by the messages received.

Angela Merkel spoke by telephone with the Mayor of Haltern, Bodo Klimpel, and expressed her deepest sympathy, Christiane Wirtz continued. In her thoughts the Chancellor and all her ministers are with the people who seek solace at this difficult time. Sixteen pupils and two teachers from the Joseph-Königs-Gymnasium in Haltern were among the victims of the plane crash.

Flight 4U9525 from Barcelona to Düsseldorf was carrying 144 passengers and 6 crew members. The Germanwings Airbus 320 crashed on Tuesday morning close to the town of Barcelonnette in the southern French Alps. Families can call the Federal Foreign Office helpline on 030 5000 3000 and the Düsseldorf Airport helpline on 0800 7766350.