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Searchers forced to build road to Germanwings crash site

Investigators searching through the wreckage of the crashed Germanwings plane in the French Alps have been forced to resume their search on foot as bad weather hampered helicopter flights.

Mountain police near the Seyne-les-Alpes crash site in the French Alps said Monday that searchers are having to continue their work on foot due to bad weather conditions in the area hampering helicopter flights.

Currently about 50 rescue workers hike daily around three-quarters of an hour to the site of the crash though difficult mountain terrain, Yves Naffrechoux of the local mountain police unit said.

"The teams get to the site via a path that is already in existence," Naffrechoux added.

Officials say the mountainous terrain is hampering their ability to work and is slowing down their progress.

"We have slopes of 40 to 60 degrees, failing rocks, and ground that tends to crumble," he added.

"Some things have to be done by abseiling. Since safety is key, the recovery process is a bit slow, which is a great regret."

Access key to speeding up search

Access to the mountain area is extremely dangerous

. Authorities are building a more accessible road to the crash site to ease access for forensic experts and officials.

Specialized machinery, including a bulldozer, were already being deployed at the site to improve access to the remote crash area which should be completed by Tuesday or Wednesday, Xavier Vialenc, spokesperson for the 350 military police involved in the search effort.

"We'll gain some time with that," Vialenc said, adding that the second of the plane's 'black box' flight recorders had yet to be found.

Families making way to crash site

Germanwings director of operations, Oliver Wagner, told reporters Monday that 325 grieving relatives had made the trip so far to Seyne-les-Alpes.

"The majority has been German and Spanish families, but we've also had people from Mexico, Japan, Colombia, Venezuela or Argentinia," Wagner said.

Germanwings, along with its parent company Lufthansa, have 90 people at a makeshift care center near the crash site to assist families of those who died in the crash, Wagner said. More than a dozen psychological counselors are also there, Wagner added.

Lufthansa announced Friday it would

immediately compensate families 50,000 euros

($54,000) for each passenger, stressing this figure would be in addition to any financial deal struck at a later date.

Deputy director of the police criminal research institute, Patrick Touron said none of the 150 bodies were intact.

So far, between 400 and 600 body parts have been recovered and are being examined, he said.

European investigators are trying to determine the psychological state of German co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who prosecutors say deliberately crashed the A320 airbus plane into a mountain on Monday 24 with 150 people on board.

jlw/sb (Retuers, dpa, AP, AFP)

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