Insurers have begun counting the financial cost of the Germanwings plane disaster, parent company Lufthansa said Tuesday, with hundreds of millions of dollars being set aside to cover compensation for victims' families.
As search teams continued to scour the crash site in the French Alps under arduous conditions, the German flag carrier said $300 million (279 million euros) in provisions had been earmarked to cover the damages.
The sum includes financial compensation for the families of the people who died and the cost of the Airbus A320 jet itself, which belonged to Lufthansa's low-cost carrier Germanwings, a company spokeswoman told AFP.
The current list price of an Airbus A320 jet is $93.9 million.
The director of operations at Germanwings, Oliver Wagner, has said that the company would immediately compensate each family with 50,000 euros ($54,000).
This sum would not be deducted from any final compensation deal, he added.
The catastrophe has dealt a heavy blow to Lufthansa's image and it announced Tuesday it would cancel celebrations next month marking the airline's 60th anniversary "out of respect for the crash victims of flight 4U9525".
Investigators evaluating voice recorder data from a "black box" located last week say the Germanwings co-pilot Andreas Lubitz apparently locked his captain out of the cockpit and deliberately slammed the plane into a French mountainside.
The flight crashed one week ago at a speed of 700 kilometers (430 miles) an hour, instantly killing all 150 people on board.
Lubitz was diagnosed as suicidal "several years ago", before he became a pilot, but had appeared more stable of late, German prosecutors said Monday.
Doctors had recently found no sign he intended to hurt himself or others, said Ralf Herrenbrueck, spokesman for the prosecutor's office in the western city of Duesseldorf.
However, he was receiving treatment from neurologists and psychiatrists who had signed him off sick from work a number of times, including the day of the crash.
Ripped up sick notes were found in a flat used by Lubitz, which authorities believe indicates that the 27-year-old was trying to hide his illness from his employer for fear of losing his job.
A forensic scientist of the Criminal Research Institute of the National Gendarmerie (IRCGN), collects DNA taken from the body parts of victims of the crash of a A320 Germanwings jetliner, in Pontoise, outside Paris, on March 30, 2015. Photo: AFP
Missing 'black box'
Meanwhile investigators resumed their grim search through the wreckage and hundreds of body parts in the French Alps using a new service road built to the remote crash site.
Three trucks set off from the dropzone in the town of Seynes-les-Alpes early in the morning after a hectic 48-hour road-building operation to ease access to the mountainside.
"It means we can work faster, later and bring back more items," said one police officer.
Trucks now take 45 minutes to reach the base of the rocky slope where debris remains spread across some two hectares (five acres), while two helicopters hover overhead to check for pieces that may have been flung further.
Somewhere in there lies the second "black box" recorder, which gathered technical data on the flight, and has yet to be found.
Forensic teams have isolated almost 80 distinct DNA strands from the shattered aircraft and have described the grim task as "unprecedented" given the tricky mountain terrain and the speed at which the plane smashed into the rock.
French investigators said they would now concentrate on "the systemic weaknesses" that might have caused the disaster, including the logic of locking cockpit doors from the inside, which was introduced after the suicide hijackings of September 11, 2001, in the United States to stop terrorist attacks.
It said it would also look into procedures for detecting "specific psychologic profiles" in pilots after indications that Lubitz may have suffered from depression.