Paris: France came a step closer today to finding out why an Air Algerie plane smashed into the Mali desert last week as black boxes from the crash arrived in Paris.
Flags on government buildings in the French capital and elsewhere in the country flew at half-mast in mourning for the 118 victims of Thursday`s tragedy that saw entire families wiped out.
Thousands of kilometres away on the remote desert site of the accident, experts were sifting through the remains of the aircraft to try and determine why it plunged to the ground with such force that it almost completely disintegrated.
"I can confirm that the two flight records of the MD-83 (McDonnell Douglas 83) that crashed in Mali arrived this morning at the Bureau of Investigations and Analyses," a spokeswoman for the agency that probes air accidents told AFP.
"At this stage, we cannot say anymore."
According to a source close to the case, who refused to be named, one of the black boxes -- devices that record flight data and conversations in the cockpit -- was badly damaged on the outside.
Depending on their condition, it can take anywhere from several hours to several days or weeks to get raw data from the black boxes.
But Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier were set to brief the press on the latest developments at 1400 GMT.
Video footage of Mali`s remote, barren Gossi area where the plane came down showed a scene of devastation littered with twisted and burnt fragments of the plane.
France bore the brunt of the tragedy, with 54 of its nationals killed in the crash of flight AH5017, which had taken off from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and was bound for Algiers.
Travellers from Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Algeria, Spain, Canada, Germany and Luxembourg also died in the accident that has tentatively been blamed on bad weather that forced the pilots to change course.
Today, several towns across France that lost entire families or couples to the tragedy announced they would pay homage to people they held dear.
The central village of Menet, where a family-of-four perished in the crash, said a silent march would take place Friday in front of the places where the victims used to go, such as the school or certain shops.
"People in the village can`t quite realise what happened. For us, the footage we see on television is extremely violent," said the mayor Alexis Monier.