Devastated city buries president of Chapecoense soccer club

"Until then all we can do is to be with the families that stay here and cry with them".

Brazilian president Michel Temer presided over a brief ceremony at Chapeco airport in Santa Catarina state in southern Brazil, where he posthumously decorated 50 of the victims and offered condolences to their families.

President Temer told reporters: "This event, as you know, shook the whole country. This rain must be St Peter crying".

Among those killed were 19 first-team players from Brazilian football team Chapecoense.

The Lamia Air Avro RJ 85 crashed in hills close to Medellin after apparently running out of fuel.

Of Chapecoense's 22-man squad that was travelling to dispute the Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional, three players escaped with their lives: Alan Ruschel, Neto and reserve goalkeeper Jakson Follmann.

Thirteen people associated with the club will be buried at two cemeteries in the city, while the rest, including the 19 players, will be transported later to other Brazilian cities for interment.

Bolivian President Evo Morales has pledged to take "drastic measures" to determine the cause.

The Bolivian Civil Aviation Authority announced it had indefinitely halted all flights operated by LaMia and also was suspending some aviation officials during the investigation.

Chelsea's Brazil defender David Luiz, whose side beat Manchester City 3-1, said: "I give this victory to the people who died".

Ahead of the memorial, the bodies of numerous dead, all in caskets, arrived Saturday morning in Chapeco. Visitors from other parts of Brazil joined locals, waving flags of other teams in solidarity.

Chapeco Mayor Luciano Buligon said the city is looking forward and hopes to return to some ordinary routines on Monday. "Those players were our neighbors".

"Whether it is because we are in constant movement or because we witness shootings, fights and violent demonstrations or because sometimes we are the only ones who want to get into places where everyone wants to leave, journalists often feel the same pain as the people facing tragedies".

Some 100,000 fans, about half the city's population, are likely to attend, as is Gianni Infantino, president of world soccer governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association. "There are no words that can diminish the suffering", he said in a brief speech.

A huge black banner had been hung on the outer wall of the Chapecoense stadium.

The coffins were draped in white cloth adorned with the team's green logo.

Brazilian media, citing a leaked internal document, have claimed that an official at Bolivia's aviation agency had raised concerns about LAMIA's flight plan before the plane took off.

Colombia's civil aviation safety chief, Freddy Bonilla, said the plane had disregarded worldwide rules of fuel reserves.

A recording of the flight's final minutes showed the pilot repeatedly requested permission to land because of "fuel problems", although he never made a formal distress call.

  • Jon Douglas