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Europe

Hollande, Merkel, Rajoy visit Germanwings A320 crash site

media A rescue helicopter from the French gendarmerie flies over the snow covered French Alps near the crash site of Airbus A320 on 25 March 2015 Reuters/Eric Gaillard

Nationals of at least 15 countries were on board the Germanwings A320 flight that crashed in the French Alps on Tuesday. The French, Spanish and German leaders visited the site on Wednesday afternoon.

French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy visited Seyne-les-Alpes, the nearest village to the site of the crash on Wednesday afternoon. 

Most of the victims were German and Spanish, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius told the media earlier, but there were also nationals of at least 13 other countries among the confirmed victims.

 Among them were people from Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, the UK, Israel, Japan, Morocco, Mexico, Kazakhstan and the Netherlands. 

The Airbus was flying between the Spanish city of Barcelona and Dusseldorf in Germany when it crashed into a French mountainside. 

Sixteen German high school students were on board the plane, as were opera singers Oleg Bryjak, 54, and Maria Radner, 33, who were based in Dusseldorf. 

Radner was travelling with her husband and baby, one of two infants on board the plane.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls had earlier said that an American was on board. 

"It's up to [Germanwings' parent company] Lufthansa and the Spanish and German authorities to provide all the information, as soon as possible I hope," Valls said. 

Germany and Spain have said that 67 Germans and 45 people with Spanish-sounding names were on board. 

The reasons for the crash remained mysterious on Wednesday, as the black box arrived in Paris for expert examination. 

The plane was making a gradual descent, meaning that the pilots had not taken emergency action, experts say. 

Although the plane was 24-years-old and its lifespan was 25 years, it had undergone numerous security overhauls and Germanwings had an unblemished safety record. 

"It is inexplicable," Lufthansa boss Carsten Spohr said in Frankfurt. "The plane was in perfect condition and the two pilots were experienced." 

More than 300 police and 380 firefighters have been mobilised to search the site, which was difficult to get to, especially after rain and snow overnight.

The biggest body parts were no bigger than a briefcase, investigators said.

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