Dignity in death at last for MH17 victims as bodies arrive in Netherlands
Two military transport planes carrying 40 coffins bearing victims of the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 have landed in the southern Dutch city of Eindhoven.
Six days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the first bodies finally arrived today in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew.
A Dutch Hercules C-130 that Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said was carrying 16 coffins was closely followed by an Australian C-17 Globemaster plane carrying 24 coffins.
The military transport planes left Ukraine at noon and landed at Eindhoven Air Base where they were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, prime minister Mark Rutte and other government officials, as well as hundreds of relatives.
King Willem-Alexander clasped his wife's hand as the couple watched teams carry the coffins slowly from the planes to a fleet of waiting hearses. Almost the only sound was of boots marching across the ground and flags flapping in the wind.
From the airport, they were to be driven under military police escort to the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts at a military barracks will carry out the painstaking task of identifying the remains.
Mr Rutte says many bodies could be identified quickly and returned to their loved ones, but some families might have to wait weeks for a positive identification.
The bodies arrived in the Netherlands - which was home to 193 of the victims - on a day of national mourning. Flags flew at half-mast on government buildings and family homes around this country of 17 million. Church bells rang out as the planes taxied to a standstill in Eindhoven.