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President Sarkisian Declares Mourning in Armenia Over Deadly Plane Crash


Armenia -- A young woman checking the list of victims at Zvartnots airport in Yerevan, 15 July 2009

Armenia -- A young woman checking the list of victims at Zvartnots airport in Yerevan, 15 July 2009

President Serzh Sarkisian has declared Thursday, July 16, a day of mourning in Armenia after a plane operating a Caspian Airlines Tehran-Yerevan flight crashed Wednesday afternoon killing all 168 people on board, including many citizens of Armenia and ethnic Armenians.

A Yerevan-bound Iranian passenger plane crashed in northwest of Iran, near the city of Qazvin, just before noon on Wednesday, with all 168 people on board confirmed dead.

The Tupolev plane reportedly went down near Jannat-abad village near Qazvin at 11:33 am local time after it took off from the Iranian capital Tehran to fly to Armenian capital Yerevan.

The list of the victims published by the Armenian Head Department of Civil Aviation shows most of the passengers were Iranians and Armenians.

Armenia’s President Serzh Sarkisian cut shot his provincial trip on Wednesday and promptly returned to capital Yerevan upon learning the news, his presidential office confirmed to RFE/RL.

In his words of condolences released by his office, Sarkisian said: “We can’t recover the losses, but we express our support to the families and friends of the victims.”

“The Armenian authorities are doing everything possible to help them at this difficult moment. It is difficult to find words of consolation for the people who lost a family member or relative. I wish them spiritual strength and courage to overcome this great tragedy,” said Sarkisian.

Sarkisian’s Iranian counterpart has also expressed condolences to the families of the victims.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly ordered his country’s Roads and Transportation Ministry to launch a probe into the disaster.

One person who came to Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport to see in a friend arriving on the flight from Tehran said he wasn’t surprised at the crash.

“They’d better do everything to prevent such incidents,” he told RFE/RL, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Anyone who once traveled to Iran by air knows that it is horrible to fly on board an old Russian Tu plane leased by Iranians. There is always a chance this plane will crash. Personally, I am not surprised that this plane crashed.”

A Caspian Airlines Yerevan representative, however, insisted that the company strictly follows safety rules and procedures.

Arlen Davudian said before leaving Tehran the plane had passed the necessary technical inspection.

“Every 300 hours planes pass technical inspection,” he added.

Davudian also confirmed that there were two children on board the plane.
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