MH17 Air Crash: Bodies put on train

trainThe remains of up to 196 people from the MH17 crash in Ukraine have been loaded on to refrigerated rail wagons, to be taken to an unknown destination.

All 298 people on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 died when a missile reportedly hit it on Thursday.

Western countries have criticised pro-Russian rebels controlling the area for restricting access to the crash site.

The rebels say they will hand MH17’s flight recorders to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The indiscipline and chaos of the last two days have been replaced by the robust presence of former riot policemen who now form a cordon around the central area of the crash site.

There is still no sign of the fully fledged independent investigation which is being demanded by the international community.

During the morning local volunteers have been searching the fields. We have been told that their job is to pinpoint belongings and remains to the emergency services. But this could easily have the effect of disturbing evidence important to an inquiry.

As for the strong words from British Prime Minister David Cameron attacking Russia they are likely to have little impact on the rebels here. They are contemptuous of the West and are much more concerned with the local military balance than with any warnings from London.

Ukraine’s government and the rebels have accused each other of shooting down the Boeing 777, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. The US state department said there had been multiple reports of bodies and aircraft parts being removed, and potential evidence tampered with.

Fighting is reportedly continuing in eastern Ukraine between the separatist rebels and government forces in a conflict which erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

In another development, Ukraine’s security service produced what it said was a recording of another intercepted call between rebels (in Russian) saying Moscow had given orders not to hand the “black boxes” to international monitors. The authenticity of the tape could not be confirmed.

The freight train with its five sealed wagons has been standing at Torez railway station, 15km (nine miles) from the crash site.

The carriages, with heavy closed doors, look like refrigeration units and there is the occasional smell normally associated with dead bodies, the BBC’s Richard Galpin reports from Torez.

The OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) mission in the region said in a tweet it had been told that 196 bodies were on the rail wagons in Torez. — BBC

An OSCE team was allowed to see three of the wagons and observed “tagged body bags”, without being able to verify the figures. It’s not clear where the train will take the bodies.

Speaking in Donetsk, the biggest rebel-held city in the east, rebel political leader Alexander Borodai reportedly said the bodies would remain in Torez until international aviation inspectors arrived.

He also said his forces had brought the plane’s “black boxes” to the city and he was supervising them personally.

The passenger list released by Malaysia Airlines shows the plane was carrying 193 Dutch nationals (including one with dual US nationality), 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 Britons (including one with dual South African nationality), four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

Memorial services have been held in Australia, with more planned in other countries later on Sunday.

Bishop Peter Comensoli, who led the Mass at Sydney’s St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, said the downing of MH17 was not “an innocent accident” but “the outcome of a trail of human evil”.

In Melbourne, a special Mass was held for the HIV experts and campaigners on the flight who had been making their way to the city for an international Aids conference.

In a mark of respect to the dead, Malaysia Airline says it is retiring the MH17 flight number. The airline did the same for MH370, which disappeared in March with 239 passengers and crew on board.

Russia denies any involvement in the downing of the Malaysian plane, and has rejected Western allegations that it is stoking the Ukraine conflict. — BBC

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