Cuba in Mourning After Jet Crash; 110 Confirmed Dead

Cuban authorities said the fiery crash of an aging Boeing passenger jet on Friday shortly after takeoff from Havana had killed 110 people, 99 of whom were Cuban, making it the Caribbean island’s deadliest air disaster

in nearly 30 years.

Flags flew at half-staff in Cuba on Saturday, marking the start of two days of national mourning while authorities worked to identify the crash victims. Fifteen have been identified so far.

Authorities told reporters Saturday at Havana airport that three of the passengers killed on the domestic flight to Holguin were foreign tourists — two Argentines and a Mexican — while another two were Sahrawi

residents in Cuba.

The six Mexican crew members aboard the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased by Cuban flagship carrier Cubana from a small Mexican company called Damojh, were also killed.

Three Cuban women survived the crash but were still in critical condition, said the head of the hospital where they were being treated.

Distressed relatives cried and hugged one another outside a morgue, where they gave information on loved ones to authorities to aid in identification.

“This is a very unexpected death. She didn’t deserve it. My grandmother was a strong person,” said Katherine Lucia Martinez, an 18-year-old student, bursting into tears and clinging to her father. She was waiting with other relatives of the deceased at a Havana hotel for updates from authorities.

President’s visit

President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday visited the morgue, a day after reviewing the site of the crash, the first big test of his presidency after taking the reins from Raul Castro last month.

Cuban investigators worked overnight at the site of the crash, an agricultural area 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Havana, sifting through the burned wreckage for evidence, officials said.

So far they had recovered the cockpit voice recorder, in “good condition,”  Cuban Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo said Saturday. They were still looking for the flight data recorder.

“The plane was on fire, it flipped and then nosedived,” said Marino Perez Alvaredo, a farmer who works near where the plane crashed.

The Mexican transport department said on its website: “During takeoff [the plane] apparently suffered a problem and dove to the ground.”

Mexico also said it would send a team of investigators from its Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics on Saturday. 

Most aircraft accidents take months to investigate.

The crash was the worst in Cuba since a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62M passenger plane crashed near Havana in 1989, killing all 126 people on board and another 14 on the ground.

“For the love of God, I never thought I would see this,” said Caridad Miranda, 45, whose sister and niece died in the crash. “They should have checked that plane well.”

Cuba in Mourning After Jet Crash; 110 Confirmed Dead

Cuban authorities said the fiery crash of an aging Boeing passenger jet on Friday shortly after takeoff from Havana had killed 110 people, 99 of whom were Cuban, making it the Caribbean island’s deadliest air disaster

in nearly 30 years.

Flags flew at half-staff in Cuba on Saturday, marking the start of two days of national mourning while authorities worked to identify the crash victims. Fifteen have been identified so far.

Authorities told reporters Saturday at Havana airport that three of the passengers killed on the domestic flight to Holguin were foreign tourists — two Argentines and a Mexican — while another two were Sahrawi

residents in Cuba.

The six Mexican crew members aboard the nearly 40-year-old Boeing 737, leased by Cuban flagship carrier Cubana from a small Mexican company called Damojh, were also killed.

Three Cuban women survived the crash but were still in critical condition, said the head of the hospital where they were being treated.

Distressed relatives cried and hugged one another outside a morgue, where they gave information on loved ones to authorities to aid in identification.

“This is a very unexpected death. She didn’t deserve it. My grandmother was a strong person,” said Katherine Lucia Martinez, an 18-year-old student, bursting into tears and clinging to her father. She was waiting with other relatives of the deceased at a Havana hotel for updates from authorities.

President’s visit

President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday visited the morgue, a day after reviewing the site of the crash, the first big test of his presidency after taking the reins from Raul Castro last month.

Cuban investigators worked overnight at the site of the crash, an agricultural area 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of Havana, sifting through the burned wreckage for evidence, officials said.

So far they had recovered the cockpit voice recorder, in “good condition,”  Cuban Transport Minister Adel Yzquierdo said Saturday. They were still looking for the flight data recorder.

“The plane was on fire, it flipped and then nosedived,” said Marino Perez Alvaredo, a farmer who works near where the plane crashed.

The Mexican transport department said on its website: “During takeoff [the plane] apparently suffered a problem and dove to the ground.”

Mexico also said it would send a team of investigators from its Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics on Saturday. 

Most aircraft accidents take months to investigate.

The crash was the worst in Cuba since a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62M passenger plane crashed near Havana in 1989, killing all 126 people on board and another 14 on the ground.

“For the love of God, I never thought I would see this,” said Caridad Miranda, 45, whose sister and niece died in the crash. “They should have checked that plane well.”

Somali Refugee Makes History in Britain

He is a former refugee, a Muslim, and now the first Somali-British mayor, the youngest ever Lord Mayor for Sheffield city in the United Kingdom.

The 28-year-old Magid Magid has also become the first Green Party mayor. He was sworn in Friday.

“This really was a victory for the Somalis and other Muslim communities in Sheffield,” Kaltum Osman, a young Somali woman who also won a seat at Sheffield’s City Council, told VOA Somali. “This was a victory for the young men and women of Sheffield. It was a clear message for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”

Magid was born in Burao, a town in the northern breakaway region of Somaliland.

Osman said Magid came to Sheffield when he was five years old, after spending six months in a refugee camp in Ethiopia with his mother and five siblings.

“He came here at a young age, grew up and as young man he was very ambitious and thought that there was nothing that could prevent him from being what he wanted to be,” Osman said.

Speaking during his inaugural ceremony, Magid said he remembered little about his early childhood in Somalia and that he had never returned to his country of birth.

“I remember just being happy, playing around as you do as a kid, but in reality it was a completely different story,” he said.

But Magid said he remembered well the difficulties his family experienced as refugees, especially when they arrived in Sheffield’s Burngreave area, where his family set up home.

“Life was difficult when my family arrived. We were struggling with learning the language and adapting to a new way of life. My mother worked as a cleaner to take care of me and siblings,” he said.

Magid studied aquatic zoology at the University of Hull, developed an interest in politics while at university, and in 2016 was elected as Green councilor for Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward in Sheffield.

Somali Refugee Makes History in Britain

He is a former refugee, a Muslim, and now the first Somali-British mayor, the youngest ever Lord Mayor for Sheffield city in the United Kingdom.

The 28-year-old Magid Magid has also become the first Green Party mayor. He was sworn in Friday.

“This really was a victory for the Somalis and other Muslim communities in Sheffield,” Kaltum Osman, a young Somali woman who also won a seat at Sheffield’s City Council, told VOA Somali. “This was a victory for the young men and women of Sheffield. It was a clear message for every person that’s been told they have limits on their dreams.”

Magid was born in Burao, a town in the northern breakaway region of Somaliland.

Osman said Magid came to Sheffield when he was five years old, after spending six months in a refugee camp in Ethiopia with his mother and five siblings.

“He came here at a young age, grew up and as young man he was very ambitious and thought that there was nothing that could prevent him from being what he wanted to be,” Osman said.

Speaking during his inaugural ceremony, Magid said he remembered little about his early childhood in Somalia and that he had never returned to his country of birth.

“I remember just being happy, playing around as you do as a kid, but in reality it was a completely different story,” he said.

But Magid said he remembered well the difficulties his family experienced as refugees, especially when they arrived in Sheffield’s Burngreave area, where his family set up home.

“Life was difficult when my family arrived. We were struggling with learning the language and adapting to a new way of life. My mother worked as a cleaner to take care of me and siblings,” he said.

Magid studied aquatic zoology at the University of Hull, developed an interest in politics while at university, and in 2016 was elected as Green councilor for Broomhill and Sharrow Vale ward in Sheffield.

Worlds Away from Windsor, People Celebrate Harry and Meghan’s Big Day

From the windswept Falkland Islands, battered by the South Atlantic and home to colonies of penguins, to the heat of Kenya, India and Australia, people around the world celebrated Britain’s glittering royal wedding Saturday.

The scenes of pageantry and romance in Windsor, where Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle, were beamed to locations across continents where people dressed up, raised their glasses and enjoyed the fun of a uniquely British event.

“We are very fond of our royal family and it’s lovely to celebrate an event like this,” said Falkland Islander Leona Roberts, a member of the local assembly and one of the organizers of a wedding party in the tiny capital, Port Stanley.

Children dressed up as princes and princesses for the party, where they received special gifts.

Argentina disputes Britain’s sovereignty over the Falklands, which lie 300 miles (500 km) from the Argentine coast, and the two countries fought a war in 1982 over the islands. Many islanders are fiercely patriotic about Britain.

“As a Falkland Islander, I definitely feel a bond with the royal family as a symbol of Britishness. I am a staunch royalist,” said Arlette Betts, at her home on the waterfront in Port Stanley, home to most of the archipelago’s 4,000 inhabitants.

On the other side of the world, in India, a group of Mumbai’s famed dabbawalas, or lunch delivery men, chose a traditional sari dress and kurta jacket as wedding gifts for Harry and his bride, while at the Gurukul School of Art children painted posters of the royal couple and Queen Elizabeth.

In Australia, where the British monarch remains the head of state, some pubs held wedding parties, while a cinema chain screened the wedding live across its network. Viewers dressed in finery, with prizes for the most creative outfits.

At the Royal Hotel in Sydney, guests celebrated with a fancy banquet and burst into a spontaneous chorus of “Stand by Me” when a gospel choir sang the Ben E. King hit during the ceremony in Windsor.

“I just think the monarchy as such brings everyone together,” said retiree Bernie Dennis, one of those attending the banquet. “It’s like a family wedding.”

In Melbourne, fashion designer Nadia Foti attended an “English high tea” where guests wore plastic crowns and enjoyed traditional British treats such as scones and the popular summer drink Pimm’s.

“It’s exciting for the fashion and the spectacular,” said Foti. “It’s a joyous occasion and I’ve made a plum cake to celebrate in classic English style.”

There were lavish celebrations at the Windsor Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Nairobi, where guests had shelled out 1 million shillings ($10,000) to view the wedding on a giant screen, enjoy a seven-course banquet and fly to Mount Kenya by helicopter for breakfast the following morning.

Trainee lawyer Odette Ndaruzi, who is preparing for her own wedding later in the year, said she wanted to pick up some tips.

“I’m excited to see how the maidens in England are dressed, the jewelry and colors they are wearing,” she said.

The event drew criticism from some Kenyan media, however, due to the hefty price tag in a country where millions live in slums.

But perhaps the greatest interest in the royal wedding, outside of Britain, was in the bride’s home country, the United States.

In New York, revelers headed to Harry’s Bar to watch the ceremony on TV, surrounded by U.S. and British flags. Many posed for photos alongside cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom.

In Los Angeles, a lively crowd at the English-style Cat and Fiddle pub in Hollywood enjoyed pints of beer, royal-themed cocktails and British staples like sausage rolls and scones.

Popular tipples included the “Bloody Harry,” billed as a modern take on the Bloody Mary, but with added ginger as a cheeky nod to the prince’s red hair.

Worlds Away from Windsor, People Celebrate Harry and Meghan’s Big Day

From the windswept Falkland Islands, battered by the South Atlantic and home to colonies of penguins, to the heat of Kenya, India and Australia, people around the world celebrated Britain’s glittering royal wedding Saturday.

The scenes of pageantry and romance in Windsor, where Prince Harry married his American bride Meghan Markle, were beamed to locations across continents where people dressed up, raised their glasses and enjoyed the fun of a uniquely British event.

“We are very fond of our royal family and it’s lovely to celebrate an event like this,” said Falkland Islander Leona Roberts, a member of the local assembly and one of the organizers of a wedding party in the tiny capital, Port Stanley.

Children dressed up as princes and princesses for the party, where they received special gifts.

Argentina disputes Britain’s sovereignty over the Falklands, which lie 300 miles (500 km) from the Argentine coast, and the two countries fought a war in 1982 over the islands. Many islanders are fiercely patriotic about Britain.

“As a Falkland Islander, I definitely feel a bond with the royal family as a symbol of Britishness. I am a staunch royalist,” said Arlette Betts, at her home on the waterfront in Port Stanley, home to most of the archipelago’s 4,000 inhabitants.

On the other side of the world, in India, a group of Mumbai’s famed dabbawalas, or lunch delivery men, chose a traditional sari dress and kurta jacket as wedding gifts for Harry and his bride, while at the Gurukul School of Art children painted posters of the royal couple and Queen Elizabeth.

In Australia, where the British monarch remains the head of state, some pubs held wedding parties, while a cinema chain screened the wedding live across its network. Viewers dressed in finery, with prizes for the most creative outfits.

At the Royal Hotel in Sydney, guests celebrated with a fancy banquet and burst into a spontaneous chorus of “Stand by Me” when a gospel choir sang the Ben E. King hit during the ceremony in Windsor.

“I just think the monarchy as such brings everyone together,” said retiree Bernie Dennis, one of those attending the banquet. “It’s like a family wedding.”

In Melbourne, fashion designer Nadia Foti attended an “English high tea” where guests wore plastic crowns and enjoyed traditional British treats such as scones and the popular summer drink Pimm’s.

“It’s exciting for the fashion and the spectacular,” said Foti. “It’s a joyous occasion and I’ve made a plum cake to celebrate in classic English style.”

There were lavish celebrations at the Windsor Golf and Country Club on the outskirts of Nairobi, where guests had shelled out 1 million shillings ($10,000) to view the wedding on a giant screen, enjoy a seven-course banquet and fly to Mount Kenya by helicopter for breakfast the following morning.

Trainee lawyer Odette Ndaruzi, who is preparing for her own wedding later in the year, said she wanted to pick up some tips.

“I’m excited to see how the maidens in England are dressed, the jewelry and colors they are wearing,” she said.

The event drew criticism from some Kenyan media, however, due to the hefty price tag in a country where millions live in slums.

But perhaps the greatest interest in the royal wedding, outside of Britain, was in the bride’s home country, the United States.

In New York, revelers headed to Harry’s Bar to watch the ceremony on TV, surrounded by U.S. and British flags. Many posed for photos alongside cardboard cutouts of the bride and groom.

In Los Angeles, a lively crowd at the English-style Cat and Fiddle pub in Hollywood enjoyed pints of beer, royal-themed cocktails and British staples like sausage rolls and scones.

Popular tipples included the “Bloody Harry,” billed as a modern take on the Bloody Mary, but with added ginger as a cheeky nod to the prince’s red hair.

Harry, Meghan Become Husband, Wife in British Royal Ceremony

The big day finally arrived for Britain’s Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, as the couple married Saturday in the town of Windsor, outside London.

Prince Charles, Prince Harry’s father, walked the bride down the aisle.

The American former actress confirmed earlier that her father would not attend the ceremony, owing to ill health, after days of speculation over whether he would make the journey across the Atlantic.

Throngs of people descended on the historic town as well-wishers tried to catch a glimpse of the royal couple. Thousands of police officers mounted one of the biggest security operations in recent years, paid for by the public — a bill resented by some opposed to the monarchy.

Supporters argued the wedding was likely to attract big spending by visitors and those watching in bars and big screens across the country.

The ceremony began at midday in the stunning 14th century Saint George’s Chapel on the grounds of Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry was baptized in 1984.

In Photos: The Royal Wedding

Some 600 guests were invited, mainly those who have a direct relationship with the couple.

In addition, more than 2,500 members of the public were invited onto the castle grounds — the prime spot to watch the guests come and go.

“To me, that was surprising, and it was very touching. Because for as much as they don’t like the media intrusion, the royals, they’ve invited media in, they’ve invited the public in, and they’re wanting to share their special day,” said Thomas Mace-Archer-Mills of the British Monarchist Society and Foundation.

Four members of the Mumbai city-based charity the Myna Mahila Foundation were invited. The non-governmental organization provides sanitary products in the slums of the Indian capital and was visited by Meghan Markle last year. It’s one of seven charities that the couple have asked guests to make donations to instead of providing wedding gifts. The charity’s founder, Myne Mahila, says the invitation came as a huge shock.

“We are representing not just ‘Myna,’ but also the women across the urban slums in the city and India as well. I think there is a lot on the plate and a lot of pressure,” she said.

More than 100,000 people were expected to line the streets of Windsor. Many arrived early to bag the best spots for a look. Donna Werner is a self-confessed royal “superfan” who flew over from her home in the U.S. state of Connecticut and camped out for four nights on a Windsor sidewalk.

In Photos: Crowds, Stars Gather for Royal Wedding

“Every little girl has read fairy tales from her childhood on by her mother and she always dreams of becoming a princess and living in a castle. And I mean, this is it. This is a real-life fairy tale,” she said.

In a break with U.S. tradition, Meghan Markle did not have a maid of honor. All of the six bridesmaids and four page boys were children of friends of the couple. Harry’s nephew, Prince George, was a pageboy, and niece, Princess Charlotte, a bridesmaid.  

In the kitchens of Windsor Castle, 30 chefs prepared a banquet for the reception guests.

“The couple … tasted everything, they’ve been involved in every detail,” says royal head chef Mark Flanagan.

That could mean some stateside surprises among the British fare.

“Are we going to see hot dogs and these sorts of American things? I’m sure there will be a nod to the American culture where food is concerned,” said Mace-Archer-Mills.

As well as the home crowds, millions were expected to watch on television around the globe, with the promise of British pomp mixed with plenty of Hollywood glamour.

Fern Robinson contributed to this report.

UN to Spain: Don’t Send Chinese, Taiwanese Home

Human rights experts from the United Nations called on Spain Friday to halt extraditions of Chinese and Taiwanese nationals to China because of concerns they would be exposed to the risk of torture, ill treatment or the death penalty.

They cited the December 2016 arrest of 269 suspects, including 219 Taiwanese, over their alleged involvement in telecom scams to defraud Chinese citizens in a police swoop dubbed Operation Wall.

Two Taiwanese individuals were reported to have been extradited to China on Thursday and the U.N. experts said they feared others would also be deported soon.

“We are dismayed by the decision by the Spanish courts to extradite these individuals. The ruling clearly contravenes Spain’s international commitment to refrain from expelling, returning or extraditing people to any state where there are well-founded reasons to believe that they might be in danger of being subjected to torture,” the experts said.

The experts also said some of those detained may be victims of human trafficking after they stated they had been brought to Spain under the promise they would work as tourist guides.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry thanked Spain for “handling Taiwan matters on the basis of the ‘One China’ principle.”

“We are also very happy that the two countries of China and Spain have achieved increasingly fruitful results in cracking down on crime and in joint law enforcement as political trust continuously deepens and pragmatic cooperation advances in a variety of areas,” the ministry said at a briefing on Saturday.

The Spanish government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Progress in Struggle to Save Animals From Extinction

Conservationists around the world are making great strides in rescuing animal species from the brink of extinction. Despite the recent death of the last male white rhinoceros, there is hope that science can bring the species back. In Europe, scientists are raising bison almost a century after they vanished from the wild, and California’s population of sea otters has rebounded from only 50 specimens in the 1930s. VOA’s George Putic has more.

US Embassy Move to Jerusalem Aggravates US-Turkish Tensions

Turkey is furious over the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and Israel’s use of live ammunition against Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and it has recalled its ambassadors from the United States and Israel. Tensions between Ankara and Washington were already simmering over the fate of an American pastor imprisoned in Turkey and the sentencing of a Turkish banker in the United States. VOA’s Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from the State Department.