Grieving Dutch pay tribute as MH17 victims arrive home
24 July 2014, 14:20
Eindhoven - The first bodies from flight MH17 has arrived in the Netherlands almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, large crowds of bereaved citizens lined the streets to welcome the convoy of hearses.
Uniformed Dutch military personnel solemnly hoisted 40 wooden coffins from two planes and placed them in individual hearses at Eindhoven airport in the south of the country in a powerfully sombre ceremony, as a trumpeter played the Last Post and a large crowd of the bereaved watched, shielded from the press.
The televised two-hour ceremony watched across the Netherlands and abroad came in stark contrast to the chaotic and disturbing scenes filmed in the aftermath of the plane crash.
Church bells rang throughout the country as the planes touched down in a much-delayed return for the first as-yet unidentified remains of the 298 people killed in the disaster, most of them Dutch.
Around 1 000 bereaved relatives of the 193 Dutch dead, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and representatives of the other bereaved nations met the planes.
The bodies were then driven under police escort to a military base at Hilversum, southeast of Amsterdam, where forensics experts will identify them.
Flags of the 17 nations that lost citizens in the crash flew at half mast at the airport. Malaysia Airways counted 11 nationalities on the passenger manifest, but some had dual nationality.
Motorways along the 100km route from Eindhoven to Hilversum were closed for the long convoy to pass, with crowds gathering on bridges overhead to throw flowers at the hearses.
A minute's silence was observed nationwide, during which no flights landed or took off at Amsterdam Schiphol airport, from where the doomed Boeing 777 left six days earlier.
In Amsterdam, thousands dressed in white marched solemnly along the city's canals before releasing hundreds of balloons into the sky as night fell.
Dozens more bodies are due to arrive in the Netherlands on Thursday, among the 200 which Dutch officials in Ukraine say they have received from the rebels.
Rutte has warned it could take months for the bodies to be identified.
Dutch police have been visiting the bereaved to retrieve DNA samples from items such as hairbrushes and from details of tattoos and fingerprints, as well as consulting medical and dental records to help with the identification.
Watch a video of the convoy: