Bodies heading for Netherlands
Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the airliner crash have left the embattled plains of eastern Ukraine, bringing some consolation to grieving relatives who still must wait for positive identifications and answers about who caused the disaster.
The Dutch government has declared a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies. The crash last Thursday killed all 298 people - most of them Dutch citizens - aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Two military transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, left for Eindhoven air base, to be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, prime minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives.
For one grieving mother, the arrival of the bodies marked a new stage of mourning and brought to an end the pain of seeing television images of victims lying in the undulating fields or in body bags being loaded into a train.
"If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it," said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son Bryce and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash. "Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare."
Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said about 60 coffins were expected.
There was confusion about how many of the 282 corpses the rebels said they had found were on the train which arrived yesterday in Kharkiv, a government-controlled city.
Jan Tuinder, the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead, said that at least 200 bodies were aboard the train and that more remains could be found once the body bags are examined fully.
The Netherlands government said a minute's silence will be held before a motorcade takes the bodies to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks, where the process of identifying them will begin.
Mr Rutte warned yesterday that this might not be a quick process, saying: "This may happen rapidly, but I have to caution you that it could also take weeks or even months."
Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking confirmed that the planes were carrying 40 coffins.