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First MH17 bodies reach Netherlands, black boxes Britain

Posted on Jul 23 2014 | IANS

Eindhoven/Kiev/London, July 23 : Two aircraft with the first bodies of the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 landed at Eindhoven airport in the Netherlands Wednesday even as the flight recorders of the ill-fated aircraft were handed over to investigators in Britain.

A Hercules plane of the Dutch Royal Air Force and an Australian Boeing C-17 brought an estimated total of 40 bodies from Kharkiv in Ukraine to Eindhoven. The bodies will be transferred to Hilversum for identification, Xinhua reported.

At Eindhoven airport, a short mourning ceremony was held, which was attended by hundreds of relatives and, among others, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher.

Five minutes before the arrival of the aircraft, church bells in the Netherlands started to ring. After the ceremony in Eindhoven, a trumpet blare was followed by a nationwide minute of silence.

The Dutch Railways also held a minute of silence with trains standing still, as well as the taxis, bus companies and other local transport companies.

People stopped their cars. In stores, music went off.

Air traffic at Eindhoven Airport was shut down from 3.45 p.m. to 6 p.m., while air traffic over the whole country was stopped for 13 minutes around the arrival of the planes with the bodies.

Flight MH17, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed last Thursday in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board. The dead included 193 Dutch nationals.

Reports indicated that the Boeing 777 crashed after being hit by a missile. US President Barack Obama said initial investigations showed that the missile was fired from an area in Ukraine controlled by anti-Kiev militants.

Wednesday was observed as a national day of mourning in the Netherlands.

The Netherlands does not have a tradition of national mourning days, but various political parties requested for it Monday as a way to commemorate the victims and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "If the need arises, we can change that."

It was announced Tuesday that Wednesday would be designated a day of national mourning.

The last day of national mourning was Dec 8, 1962, the day when late Queen Wilhelmina was interred. On that day, many events were cancelled across the country.

Earlier Wednesday, before the departure of the planes carrying the bodies, a mourning ceremony was held at Kharkiv airport, attended by Ukrainian officials and representatives of embassies of the Netherlands, Canada, Britain, Indonesia, Australia, Malaysia and the US.

During the ceremony, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman expressed his condolences and sympathies to the families who have lost their loved ones in the tragedy.

"On behalf of the president, the prime minister, the government and the whole Ukrainian people, I appeal to the relatives of the flight MH17 passengers, asking to accept our deepest condolences. We grieve with you," Groysman said.

He voiced his country's commitment to making every effort to find out the cause of the disaster and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Meanwhile, according to a report from London, the flight recorders, commonly known as black boxes, of MH17 have been delivered by the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) to the headquarters of the British Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) in Farnborough, Hampshire, for downloading, Xinhua reported.

The DSB also confirmed that the two black boxes have arrived in Britain, "where they are currently being read out and analysed by a team of international specialists".

"The on-site investigation in Ukraine is currently in full swing," said the DSB, which took over formal responsibility for the air crash investigation from Ukraine Tuesday.

"Although investigators still do not have safe access to the crash site, work to gather and analyse data from various sources is under way in both Kiev and the Netherlands," the board tweeted.

The AAIB, a part of the British government's Department for Transport (DfT), is responsible for the investigation of civil aircraft accidents and serious incidents within Britain.

In March, it worked with British satellite company Inmarsat to provide information that helped Malaysian authorities confirm that missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 had "ended" in the southern Indian Ocean.

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