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Grim vigil of relatives at the site of the plane crash in China

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By Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Suen

WUZHOU, China, March 23 (Reuters) – As rescue teams searched mountainous terrain for the victims of Monday’s plane crash in southern China, a man surnamed Zhang, whose nephew was among 132 people aboard the Boeing 737-800, said that his greatest hope, to find him alive, which is unreal.

Zhang, a retiree in his 60s who asked that his full name not be used, had driven with his son on Tuesday from the southern city of Shenzhen.

“I hope the country can fully investigate this matter and find out if it is the manufacturer’s fault or a maintenance issue,” he told Reuters on Wednesday.

“I have come with my son and hoped to stay until the matter was resolved and I took his ashes back. But this depends on the work of the government,” he said.

In pairs or small groups, dozens of relatives gathered Wednesday at the guarded checkpoint leading to the site in Teng county, south China’s Guangxi region. Some arrived in government convoys, accompanied by officials.

Zhang’s nephew, surnamed Sun in his 40s, lived in the eastern city of Nanjing with his wife and two children. He worked in water conservancy and was on a business trip when the China Eastern plane crashed en route from Kunming in the southwest to the coastal metropolis of Guangzhou.

Most of the plane appears to have disintegrated upon impact and no survivors have been found.

“To begin with, … I was shocked by the news,” Zhang recorded during a break in the heavy rain that interrupted the search effort, speaking slowly and holding back tears.

While talking to reporters, Zhang tried to give them the lunches offered by the officials, saying that they seemed hungry.

“A half hour later, I found out that someone in my family was on this plane, you can imagine how we felt,” he said.

“Such a big disaster, the whole country is in pain,” he said upon hearing the news of the Monday afternoon crash, the first deadly plane crash in China in more than a decade.

Another relative found at the scene, a 57-year-old man named Ding, whose brother had a sister-in-law who was traveling on the plane, had not given up hope.

“The only thing I want is hope, the hope of survival,” he said.

(Reporting by Martin Quin Pollard and Thomas Suen; writing by Tony Munroe; editing in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)

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