Dutch declare Wednesday official day of mourning for MH17 dead

Wednesday July 23 has been designated an official day of mourning to remember those who died on flight MH17, prime minister Mark Rutte has announced.

Flags will be at half mast on government buildings and church bells will be rung for five minutes prior to the landing of the first plane bringing back the first bodies of the dead.

The plane is expected to arrive at Eindhoven air base at 16.00 hours.

Relatives, king Willem-Alexander, queen Máxima, prime minister Mark Rutte and deputy premier Lodewijk Asscher will be present at the airport. A one-minute silence will be observed shortly after the arrival.

MPs from the VVD, ChristenUnie and SGP among others had urged parliament to proclaim a national day of mourning earlier but prime minister Mark Rutte said such a day was not in keeping with Dutch tradition.

The Netherlands does commemorate important occasions such as the 1953 floods which killed nearly 2,000 people but rarely declares official days of mourning. The last time this happened was when queen Wilhelmina died in 1962.

193 Dutch nationals died when the Boeing 777 travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down in rebel-held Ukraine, close to the Russian border. Many were families leaving for their summer holiday. The dead include 80 teenagers, children and babies.

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