Air France Rio crash dead to be recovered - officials

Undersea image released by France's Bureau of Investigation and Analysis of the crashed engine of the Airbus A330 French ministers promised the wreckage and bodies would be recovered

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Specialists could start recovering bodies of those killed in Air France's 2009 plane crash off Brazil within weeks, French officials say.

Undersea robots finally uncovered a large part of the wreckage, including bodies, on Sunday.

The "black-box" flight recorders have not yet been spotted, but investigators have expressed hope they will be found.

The flight went down in the Atlantic, killing all 228 people on board. The cause of the disaster remains unknown.

'Major breakthrough'

Start Quote

Bodies have been located on the spot. These bodies will be raised and will be identified”

End Quote Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet French Transport Minister

Although debris was recovered soon after the accident, most of the wreckage sank, and three previous attempts to find the plane were largely unsuccessful.

But the fourth attempt, using robots capable of operating 4,000m (13,120ft) below the ocean's surface, uncovered a substantial part of the plane.

French Transport Minister Nathalie Kosciusco-Morizet told reporters on Monday: "The phase involving the raising of the aircraft could be launched within three weeks to a month."

The government in Paris has already launched a tender for the job of raising the wreckage from the seabed.

Ms Kosciusco-Morizet added: "Bodies have been located on the spot. These bodies will be raised and will be identified."

Officials say relatives will be kept informed of the operation's progress.

Some may be keen for the bodies to be brought up and identified, but others may find the prospect too traumatic and prefer to leave them under the ocean, Hugh Schofield in Paris says.

He adds that the discovery of the Airbus wreckage after nearly two years of searches is a major breakthrough as there is a strong possibility the plane's flight recorders will also now be located.

That could provide crucial evidence about what caused the accident.

Those who died came from more than 30 countries, though most were French, Brazilian or German.

The Paris-bound Air France jet came down hours after it took off from Rio de Janeiro on 1 June.

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