Two planes carrying the first of the 40 victims of last week’s air disaster in Ukraine arrived at Eindhoven airport on Wednesday afternoon, in a somber ceremony attended by king Willem-Alexander, queen Máxima and other dignatories.
Flags were flying at half mast throughout the country as the Last Post sounded. A minute’s silence was then observed for the 298 people who died when the Malaysia Airways Boeing 777 was brought down close to the Russian border.
‘Silence was silence at the airbase. The only sound was the tick of the rope on a flagpole,’ said Nos reporter Martijn van der Zande using Twitter.
The 40 victims in simple wooden coffins were unloaded from the two planes one by one in slow ceremony and taken to one of the waiting hearses.
From Eindhoven, the hearses were taken to an army base in Hilversum where forensic specialists will begin the task of identifying the victims.
Australian government envoy Angus Houston told the BBC the ceremony was intended to give the victims the ‘respect and dignity they deserve’ after a ‘tragedy of unspeakable proportions’.
Outside the airport, hundreds of people were waiting for the procession at the side of the road and on motorway bridges.
It is the first time the Netherlands has declared a day of public mourning since the death of queen Wilhelmina in 1962.
The public broadcasters adapted their programming to reflect the occasion. All three public television stations and six radio stations provided live coverage of the arrival of the first victims as did dozens of other broadcasters around the world.
This evening there will be a joint church ceremony at the Sint Joris church in Amersfoort with the theme ‘unity in grief’. The service will also be broadcast live on tv. A number of silent processions have been organised around the country for Wednesday evening.
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