Flags on government and private buildings are at half mast in the Netherlands on Wednesday at the start of an official day of mourning to remember those who died on flight MH17.
It is the first time the Netherlands has declared a day of public mourning since the death of queen Wilhelmina in 1962.
In total, 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 a week ago. Many were families leaving for their summer holiday. The dead include 80 teenagers, children and babies.
The first planes bringing back the bodies of 50 victims are expected to arrive at Eindhoven air base at 16.00 hours. Church bells will be rung for five minutes prior to the landing.
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 planes’ arrival all over the country. All aircraft movements will be halted at Schiphol airport for a short period and public transport will also pause.
Coffins containing bodies will then be moved in a procession of hearses to army barracks in Hilversum for identification. Parts of the A2 and A27 motorways will be closed as the procession passes.
The public broadcasters have adapted their programming to reflect the occasion. All three public television stations and six radio stations will provide live coverage of the arrival of the first victims, Nos television says.
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 private individual has organised a silent march in Amsterdam at 20.00 hours.
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.
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