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German chancellor offers condolences to victims of plane crash

SHARE German chancellor offers condolences to victims of plane crash

BERLIN — German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder offered his deepest condolences Tuesday for relatives of those killed in the Concorde crash near Paris.

"Germany and France are united in their horror over the accident, in mourning for the victims and in sympathy for their families," Schroeder said in a statement.

The chancellor said his transport minister, Rheinhard Klimmt, was en route to the crash scene. Schroeder canceled his evening appointments to stay on top of developments. The German Foreign Ministry has set up crisis centers in Berlin and at the German Embassy in Paris.

The passengers — all German tourists — were flying by Concorde to New York City, where they were joining the luxury cruise ship MS Deutschland, flagship of the Peter Dielmann Shipping Company, a tour operator based in the northern German town of Neustadt in Holstein.

The Air France Concorde was en route to New York City when it crashed Tuesday in Gonesse outside Paris. All 100 passengers and nine crew onboard were killed and four others died on the ground.

Peter Dielmann, owner of the shipping company, told ZDF television that 99 of the 510 passengers booked on the MS Deutschland were to arrive on the Concorde.

The Frankfurt international airport said a number of passengers took flights from Frankfurt to Paris on Tuesday to join the Concorde flight. The airport spokesman had no further information on the passengers' points of origin.

The shipping company set up its own hotline for relatives.

The MS Deutschland, built by a Kiel shipyard in 1998 in the style of the Golden '20s, holds up to 520 passengers. The five-star luxury ship was to leave Tuesday from New York on a 16-day cruise through the Caribbean and the Panama Canal to Manta, Ecuador. From there it was to sail to Tahiti, then on to Sydney, Australia, for the Olympics.

After short cruises in the Baltic, North and Mediterranean seas, the MS Deutschland, Dielmann's flagship, began its first round-the-world excursion in November 1998.