At least 154 Dutch nationals were on board the Malaysian Airlines plane thought to have been brought down by a rocket over Ukraine.
Malaysian Airways spokesman Huib Gorter told a press conference at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport on Thursday evening that 154 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 23 Malaysian, 11 Indonesians, six British nationals, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one Canadian were on board.
The nationality of 47 other passengers has not yet been determined.
The Malaysian Airways plane left Schiphol airport on Thursday afternoon with 295 people on board and crashed in Ukraine shortly after 14.15 hours.
The Boeing 777, with 280 passengers and 15 crew, was en route for Kuala Lumpur.
The Ukraine authorities say the plane was brought down by pro-Russian separatists but this has been denied by the groups themselves, broadcaster Nos said.
According to American media reports, the plane was brought down by some form of rocket. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has described it as ‘an act of terrorism’.
According to website nu.nl, airspace over Ukraine has been closed. Other media reports say some airlines are now avoiding Ukraine.
Dutch king Willem-Alexander issued a statement saying he was ‘deeply shocked’ by the news.
‘We offer our deepest sympathy to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims and to those who are still uncertain if their loved ones were on board the plane,’ the short statement said.
The Dutch foreign ministry has opened a phone line for relatives to ring for further information: 00 31 70 348 77 70.
Journalist Noah Sneider said on Twitter: ‘At crash site of #MH17. Bodies everywhere, organs splayed out. Too gruesome to post photographs. This is an absolute disaster. #ukraine.’
Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans said investigators must have ‘unhindered access’ to the crash site. There must be an independent investigation into the disaster, he said.
The foreign ministry is sending extra officials to Kiev to help out at the Dutch embassy.