News release

N.S. Efforts in Swissair Crash Aftermath

Nova Scotia will spare no effort in supporting the family and friends of the passengers and crew of Swissair Flight 111, Premier Russell MacLellan said today.

"This province will open its doors and its arms to those who lost loved ones, many of whom will be coming to Nova Scotia in the hours and days ahead," said the premier.

He said he has instructed the provincial government to provide whatever assistance family and friends require while in the province.

Overnight, as the scope of the tragedy became apparent, staff at Halifax Tourism began contacting hotels in the Halifax area for rooms to accommodate victims' families and airline officials.

Halifax Tourism is arranging for up to 900 hotel rooms to be held, said David Oxner, executive director of Tourism Nova Scotia. Another 40 rooms are required by Transport Canada investigators.

Mr. Oxner said Tourism Nova Scotia has advised visitor information centres provincewide that Peggy's Cove will be closed to visitors until further notice.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Nova Scotians continue recovery efforts along the coastline and in the water off Peggy's Cove where Swissair Flight 111 went down late Wednesday.

Environment Department staff are at the site to assist where needed. Inspectors have already begun conducting sweeps of the shoreline to assess cleanup requirements. Officials believe about 200 tonnes of jet fuel were dumped into St. Margarets Bay as the pilot prepared to attempt an emergency landing.

"This is a monumental tragedy we're dealing with here," said Environment Minister Don Downe. "We have to express our gratitude and thanks to countless Nova Scotians, many of them volunteers who have come to help."

Mr. Downe said people have been bringing food and blankets to emergency workers; some have offered their homes as places to rest. Churches in the area have opened their doors to comfort the grieving.

Government staff are also working with military personnel at Canadian Forces Base Shearwater to set up a temporary morgue. Natural Resources transported 150 stretchers to the base this morning. Workers from Transportation and Public Works have constructed autopsy rooms.

At the Health Department, senior officials continued to monitor the situation and provide assistance where required. As of this morning, one ambulance and a paramedics team remained at Peggy's Cove.

After an RCMP report of the crash came into the Emergency Health Services dispatch centre at 10:39 p.m. Wednesday, 21 emergency units were ordered to respond. The units came from the Halifax area, the South Shore and the Annapolis Valley.

The province's air ambulance was activated and flew to a field near the crash site. By 11:15 p.m., the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax was on emergency alert, and Dartmouth General, South Shore Regional and IWK-Grace hospitals were informed of the situation.

At about 3:30 a.m., as it became less likely that survivors would be found, the hospital's emergency alert was cancelled and Emergency Health Services units also stood down.

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NOTE TO NEWS EDITORS/DIRECTORS: Information regarding visitor support will be updated as arrangements are made. If you require any additional information contact Jim Vibert at 902-424-4886 or Maggie Marwah at 902-424-2878. Please do not call Halifax Tourism.

ngr                    Sept. 3, 1998                   11:55 a.m.