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Families, charity workers among victims of Air Algerie crash


An Air Algerie Airways plane prepares to land at Houari Boumediene Airport in Algiers on July 24. Photo - Reuters

Charity workers in Burkina Faso, entire families, expatriates, tourists... the victims of the Air Algerie crash in Mali have left behind scores of shellshocked relatives and friends.

"He was my best friend, my brother," said Jean-Jacques Dupre, his voice breaking with emotion as he spoke of his associate Bertrand Gineste who died in Thursday's crash, along with his wife Veronique and their three children.

Dupre and Gineste jointly owned a pharmacy in the central town of Gueret, where residents were numbed by the tragedy.

The plane -- flying from Ouagadougou, the capital of the west African country of Burkina Faso, to Algiers -- crashed in neighbouring Mali near the border.

There were at least 116 people on board and all have been confirmed dead, including 54 French nationals, some of whom held double nationality.

Gueret's mayor Michel Vergnier said 55-year-old Gineste had done his military service in Burkina Faso and was the treasurer of an association that promotes cultural, professional and educational exchanges with a 45,000-strong district in the African nation.

"He joined our committee almost two years ago because he knew humanitarian work," said Vergnier.
"The family was on a private visit," he said, adding that the pharmacy owner had wanted to show his loved ones a country he was passionate about.

Families wiped out
Theirs was not the only family involved in the crash. A small town in central France was left "devastated" on hearing news that a family-of-four that lived there was on board the plane.

Bruno Cailleret, Caroline Boisnard, and their two children Elno, 14, and Chloe, 10, had "spent 15 days with an uncle of Caroline's who lives there," Denise Labbe of the town hall in Menet said.

"Everyone is devastated in the town. We all know the family, who live in front of the town hall. No one can quite believe it, it's like having a bad dream," she said.

Chloe had also confided to her teacher that she was scared of taking the plane, which she was doing for the first time, even though she was excited about the trip, Labbe said.

In another tragic case, 10 people belonging to one French family from the eastern Rhone-Alpes region near Switzerland perished in the crash, local officials and relatives said.

Amadou Ouedraogo, a Burkinabe who has been living in France for 30 years, was meanwhile mourning seven family members.

The plane was carrying "my brother, his wife, their four children and another nephew, the son of my sister," he said.

"They made the effort to take their children to discover their roots and look what happens," he said, shattered.

Further afield, in Lebanon, several families were also hugely affected including one that hailed from the village of El-Kharayeb, which seems plagued by air disasters.

"It's the capital of plane crashes," said Ibtistissam, whose brother Bilal died in the accident along with his wife and children.

In 2003, 14 residents in the village died in the crash of a Boeing 727 going from Cotonou in Benin to Beirut, while four were killed in an Ethiopian Airlines accident in January 2010.

 'Extraordinary people'
Other humanitarian workers were also among the victims, including Andre Joly, 60, and Jutta Zoller, 56, who were returning from Burkina Faso which they have visited regularly for two decades.

"They created an association, Oxygene, in 1989 to show young people that life can be beautiful," Marie-Helene Labadens, its current head, told AFP.

"They were extraordinary people. They took care of young people handed to their charge by social services" in France, she said.

"We are absolutely devastated," she added.

Another figure being mourned was Jean-Marie Rauzier, who headed a similar association called "Camelia Burkina", based in the southern coastal town of Six-Fours-les-Plages.

The 70-year-old pensioner, a bachelor with no children, worked with teenagers in Burkina Faso and set up a unit there to help them with their studies and prepare for exams.

"But above all, he helped youths, who often had no family, by providing them with food and clothes," the head of Camelia Burkina, Monique Braquet, told the daily Var Matin.

In northern France, meanwhile, Seydou Cisse grappled to come to terms with the death of his childhood friend Bakary Diallo, 35, a talented Malian film director.

"His family is in Mali. Here (in Roubaix city) it's me who is family," said Cisse.

"We do everything together, we have always done everything together," he said. "We went to the same school in Mali.... We came here together."

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