Russian officials end search at site of plane crash that killed 62

Russian emergency workers on Sunday completed their search and cleanup operations at the site of a passenger plane crash that killed all 62 people on board, as forensic experts began the process of identifying the victims.

Meanwhile, scores of mourners gathered at the airport in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don to leave candles, toys and flowers.

FlyDubai flight FZ981 crashed early Saturday in stormy weather while attempting a second landing in Rostov-on-Don.

The Boeing 737-800 went down nose-first, at an angle of 60 degrees, and exploded when it hit the ground.

The search area for debris had been extended to 15 hectares, state news agency TASS reported Sunday citing the Emergencies Ministry.

Meanwhile, the recovered flight recorders were sent to Moscow for investigation. Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said the Rostov-on-Don airport was expected to reopen on Monday.

DNA samples were taken from relatives of the victims to help in their identification, officials said.

The cause of the crash was not immediately known. Officials in Russia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) suggested the disaster was the result of poor weather conditions.

But investigators will also look into whether pilot error or a technical malfunction could have caused the crash.

"Among the theories being investigated is that the pilot made a mistake in bad weather," an unnamed official told news agency Interfax. The source added that a failure in the plane's landing elevators may also have caused the crash.

Russian authorities have questioned air traffic controllers, meteorologists and airline representatives as part of an ongoing investigation.

All 55 passengers and seven crew members aboard flight FZ981, which was flying from Dubai, were killed.

Their bodies were taken to a forensic lab on Sunday to be identified.

FlyDubai said Sunday that it would pay 20,000 dollars to the families of each of the 55 passengers.

The airline's chief executive, Ghaith al-Ghaith, urged the public to remain patient while the authorities carry out their investigations in a post on Facebook.

The Dubai-based carrier identified the nationalities of the passengers as 44 Russians, eight Ukrainians, two Indians and one from Uzbekistan.

The pilot was from Cyprus, the co-pilot from Spain.

The fatalities included 33 women, 18 men and four children.

The plane was manufactured in 2011 and was last checked on January 21, an airline official said.

While the FlyDubai plane was circling, two other planes headed for Rostov-on-Don - one belonging to Russia's Aeroflot and another to Czech Airlines - were diverted to the Krasnodar airport 250 kilometres away.

Last update: Sun, 20/03/2016 - 18:47

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