About 1000 relatives and friends of the victims of MH17 at Eindhoven Airbase in the Netherlands have witnessed the arrival of the first two planes carrying the victims’ bodies.
The Dutch C130 Hercules carrying 16 victims and the Australian RAAF C17 transporter carrying 24 bodies flew from Kharkiv airport in the Ukraine arrived safely at Eindhoven close to midnight (AEST).
The last post was played, followed by a minute’s silence to honour those who were on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, downed over rebel-controlled territory almost a week ago.
Families and friends were then able to witness bodies removed from the plane, then loaded by military personnel into individual hearses.
The planes were officially received by the Dutch king and queen as well as Australia’s representatives, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.
Family and relatives were stationed close to the dignitaries but out of view to the world’s media
A specialist team will begin identifying the bodies on Thursday, a process which could take months but Dutch authorities say will be conducted as speedily as possible.
The two military planes will shuttle 200 bodies between Ukraine and the Netherlands until all bodies are in Holland for identification.
— Marlies Dekkers (@marliesdekkers) July 23, 2014
Meanwhile experts and world leaders have expressed concern that not all the remains have been recovered from the sprawling crash site in rebel-held territory.
“It’s quite possible that many bodies are still out there, in the open in the European summer, subject to interference, and subject to the ravages of heat and animals,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country lost 28 nationals, said.
The rebels controlling the crash site released the bodies and handed over two black boxes to Malaysian officials only after intense international pressure.
The black boxes were delivered to Britain for expert analysis on Wednesday.
Russia, which US officials accuse of backing the separatists by providing them with military hardware and training, has faced a hail of international condemnation over the accident.
The crash has spurred an intense propaganda war, with both Ukraine and Russia trading blame, ratcheting up tensions after months of crisis sparked when Kiev turned its back on its former Soviet master in favour of stronger European ties.
A truce has been declared by rival sides around the crash impact site, but international investigators still face massive obstacles. Dutch officials confirmed receipt of only 200 of the 298 victims’ bodies.
International monitors said more remains were left in the vast crash site, littered with poignant fragments from hundreds of destroyed lives.
“There were human remains that had not been picked up,” said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for European security body OSCE’s mission to Ukraine after visiting the scene.
Kiev said the Netherlands and other countries that lost citizens are proposing to send police officers to secure the site, amid concerns that vital evidence has been tampered with.