The residents of the mountain village of Seyne-les-Alpes help where they can. It is from here that many rescue teams are leaving to travel to the crash site of the Germanwings plane. Barbara Wesel reports.
The 1,200 people who live in the small, Alpine village of Seyne-les-Alpes didn't hear Germanwings Flight 9525 crash some 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) away on Tuesday. It's a steep walk from the village into the mountains on a path that only hikers can manage - even four-wheel-drive vehicles can't make the trip, according to Amar Djeffal, who has brought sheep and cattle to graze in the Alpine meadows.
"You need one and half hours to get up there by foot, and that's when you're going at a good pace," he said, adding that no one lives in the valleys between Seyne and Italy.
People in the village first found out about Tuesday's crash when vehicles from the French Gendarmerie, fire department and military began streaming into the town. Hundreds of people involved in the rescue efforts arrived within hours to start the search operation and by midnight two trucks carrying massive cranes were parked on the town's main street.
Exactly what they will do, however, remains unclear as the crash site is some 600 meter higher than the village itself. The crash site's remote location means any wreckage will need to be removed by helicopter. Nine helicopters were in Seyne on Tuesday to conduct rescue operations. Authorities have closed access to all the mountain paths toward the crash site.
Villagers help where they can
The wreckage of the Airbus A320 is scattered across two hectares of narrow mountain valley after the force of the impact shattered it into pieces. Hours after the accident, the first black box was found, containing the cockpit voice recorder. An emergency services spokesperson said it will take days to recover the dead, as the work is extremely difficult. Experts and representatives from the public prosecutor's office have arrived from Marseille to begin an investigation into possible negligent homicide.
Within hours the crash site was inundated not only by rescue teams, but also by dozens of journalists and broadcasters from around the world. Throughout the night reporters tried to stay warm in nearby resorts.
Celine Ripert normally closes the "Aux bons Amis" resort in March. When she learned of the disaster she began buying food and drinks in preparation to host the unexpected guests.
"Usually it's quiet here, and visitors come to see the beautiful nature," she said.
Preparing for relatives and politicians
The mayor of Seyne has now booked all the rooms in the surrounding area, getting ready for family members expected to begin arriving on Wednesday. An evening memorial service is planned for those mourners who want to get as close to the crash site as possible.
The mayor of the nearby town of Digne said they're anticipating hundreds of relatives and police. Wednesday afternoon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, premier for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hannelore Kraft, as well as Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy are also expected to arrive. French President Francois Hollande is traveling to the scene from Paris.
The politicians will also visit the temporary morgue set up in a local sports facility to accommodate the crash victims.