News World Long wait to bring home victims

Long wait to bring home victims

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As the prime minister heads overseas to meet the Dutch PM and the MH17 disaster team, he has warned it may be a long wait before some bodies are repatriated.

Tony Abbott leaves on Saturday night for talks in the Netherlands with his Dutch counterpart, Mark Rutte.

He will also meet disaster victim identification experts and some of the 500-strong team involved in Operation Bring Them Home.

Mr Abbott said he would formally thank Rutte for his country’s leadership in the wake of the plane tragedy, in which 298 people died.

But he has also warned the bereaved in Australia to brace for a long wait.

It took months for the final Australian victim of the Bali bombings to be identified and brought home, he said.

The identification process will take place as quickly as possible, but it would regretfully and of necessity be a very slow process, Mr Abbott said in Sydney on Saturday.

“The bodies are inevitably very badly damaged by an explosion at 33,000 feet, the subsequent deceleration, decompression and fall … I hate to talk in such terms but that’s what we’re talking about,” he said.

The government has already offered to fly victims’ next of kin to the Netherlands to accompany the bodies back to Australia.

“It’s very important that we accord to these people, so cruelly cut down, dignity and respect in death that they certainly weren’t accorded by the Russian-backed rebels who shot their plane out of the sky,” Mr Abbott said.

The prime minister will then head to London for talks with the British government and officials about counter-terrorism operations and the deteriorating situation in Iraq.

On Friday forensic experts said they had identified a further 21 victims of flight MH17 to add to the two already identified.

The latest group comprises 16 Dutch, including a dual British national, two Malaysians, a German, a Canadian and a Briton.

The search for remains at the crash site has been suspended due to escalating clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists.