Supporters of Brazilian football team Chapecoense take part in a vigil at Conda Arena in Chapeco municipality, Santa Catarina state, Brazil, on Nov. 29, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua] 

More than 100,000 mourners gathered on Saturday to pay their respects to victims of the air crash that devastated Brazil’s Chapecoense football club.

Coffins holding the remains of 50 victims were carried into the club’s Arena Conda stadium during an emotional memorial service in the southern Brazilian city of Chapeco.

Seventy-one people died on Monday when the British Aerospace CP-2933 plane operated by Bolivian airline LaMia crashed just before its planned destination near the Colombian city of Medellin. Only six people survived.

Victims included 19 Chapecoense players and most of the coaching staff. The team had been due to play Colombia’s Atletico Nacional de Medellin in the first leg of the Copa Sudamerica final on Wednesday.

Among those to withstand heavy rain to attend Saturday’s ceremony were Brazilian president Michel Temer, FIFA president Gianni Infantino and Brazil’s national team coach Tite.

Chapeco mayor Luciano Buligon struggled to hold back tears as he thanked the Colombian people for their support and solidarity in the wake of the tragedy. On Wednesday tens of thousands of Atletico Nacional fans turned up for a moving candlelight vigil at the team’s Atanasio Girardot stadium in Medellin.

“Foremost, I have to say that Colombia’s actions have brought us together in a way that will never be forgotten,” Buligon said. “It was only due to the competence of the Colombian people that we have six survivors. Thank you very much Colombia. You will always be in our hearts. This team no longer belongs to Chapeco, it belongs to the world.”

Fans also showed their gratitude to Colombia during the memorial with many waving the neighboring country’s flag and holding banners with words of appreciation.

One read: “Colombia, thank you for everything.” Another said: “To the world, all we can do is say thanks.”

Earlier, Temer told reporters that Brazil was still coming to terms with the disaster.

“This event, as you know, shook the whole country,” Temer said. “This rain must be St. Peter crying.”

In the final speech of the service, Infantino said he could not find words to diminish the pain of those who lost loved ones.

“I want to leave you a hug of solidarity from the world of football and say that FIFA is by your side, not just today but always. Força Chape, we are all Brazilians, we are Chapecoenses.”

Chapecoense, who were struggling in Brazil’s fourth division seven years ago, were aiming to win their first continental title. The winner of the two-match Copa Sudamericana final was to earn a berth in next year’s Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent of Europe’s Champions League.

Atletico Nacional have requested that Chapecoense be awarded the title. Meanwhile top Brazilian teams have offered to loan players to Chapecoense for free next year and asked that the shattered club be exempt from relegation to Serie B for three years.

The tragedy has deeply affected Chapeco, a city of around 200,000 people in Brazil’s southern state of Santa Catarina.

In the past five days mourners have flocked to Arena Conda, many wearing the team’s green and white colors. Several businesses and schools have remained closed.

Investigators are still probing the cause of the accident but the pilot is known to have told air traffic officials moments before the crash that the plane was out of fuel.

The pilot had been ordered to maintain a circular holding pattern while another plane with mechanical problems was given priority to land.

Many have questioned how the flight was authorized when the distance from its origin in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz to Colombia’s Rionegro airport was the same as the plane’s maximum range without needing to refuel.

Bolivian authorities on Thursday suspended LaMia’s operating licence and president Evo Morales has promised a full investigation.

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.