July 23 (Bloomberg) -- The Netherlands, having its first national day of mourning in more than half a century, today witnessed the arrival of 40 coffins with bodies and remains of those who perished on flight MH17 on July 17.
King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte gathered with about 1,000 relatives of the 193 Dutch victims and foreign officials at Eindhoven airport where two military planes landed shortly before 4 p.m. After the landing, a soldier played ‘The Last Post’ before a minute of silence was observed. Flags on public buildings around the country are flying at half-mast for the day.
The coffins were moved from the planes to waiting hearses one by one as spectators watched in silence.
The bodies will be transported to a military base in Hilversum for identification, a process that may take months, Rutte said at a press conference yesterday. The Dutch are leading the investigation into what happened to the flight, which departed from Amsterdam for Kuala Lumpur.
Forensic work is accelerating as international pressure builds on Russian President Vladimir Putin to expedite a probe into who shot down the Malaysia Airlines jet carrying 298 passengers and crew. While Russia has denied supplying rebels with the type of weapon that is suspected of downing the plane, U.S. intelligence officials said yesterday that satellite images suggest that a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-held territory in Ukraine was responsible for the tragedy.
The last time the Dutch held a day of national mourning was in 1962 when Queen Wilhelmina died, Job van de Sande, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said by telephone today. No planes landed or departed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport during the minute of silence, Mirjam Snoerwang, spokeswoman of Schiphol, said by telephone.
Amsterdam will organize a march today at 8 p.m. while fifty churches in the city will open their doors tomorrow between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., a week after the crash happened.
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