Russia and Armenia observe a day of air crush victims mourning

Some, weeping and clutching photos of their loved ones, tossed their own carnations, roses and chrysanthemums into the waters at the site of Wednesday's crash some six kilometers (four miles) off the southern Russian resort of Sochi.

Fifty-three bodies have been pulled from the water, and 41 of them identified, said Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin, head of the emergency commission formed in the wake of the crash.

A special diving vehicle was sent to the site to try to pinpoint the remains of the plane's fuselage on the sea floor.

Levitin said authorities were searching both in Russia and abroad for equipment to raise the fuselage, where some bodies are thought to be trapped.

He had said Thursday that searchers had located a large part of the plane's fuselage that was emitting a radio signal believed to be from a flight recorder, and he later said a signal from the plane's other black box recorder had been detected.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said the search for the black boxes was tough.

"There are serious difficulties connected first of all, to the relief, second, there is a very high concentration of hydrogen sulfide (a highly poisonous gas); third, a huge mass of plankton, which limits visibility. Fourth, the fact that we hear the signal (from the black boxes) does not mean that we will get them immediately because the depth is 680 meters (2,240 feet) and the area is 15 square meters (18 square yards)," Shoigu said Friday in televised comments.

Flags were at half-staff across Russia and Armenia as the two countries observed a day of mourning, and churches were holding memorial services.

In Adler, the site of the airport near Sochi where the plane should have landed, black-robed Armenian priests and monks led mourners in a procession along the seaside promenade.

A musician stood outside the Armenian church in Adler, playing traditional mourning dirges on a duduk, a clarinet-like instrument. Most of the victims were Armenians.

Several dozen relatives and friends of the victims, mostly men, waited outside one of the Sochi morgues for news. Many said they were losing hope the remains of their loves would be returned to them.

Lerni Aryuntan, 52, said he lost his entire family in the 1988 earthquake that hit Armenia, but he was able to find his family's remains within three days. Now, he knows nothing of an elderly neighbor who died in the crash.

Levitin said a memorial to the crash victims would be erected in Sochi.

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