The Dutch public stood and applauded respectfully yesterday as they watched 40 hearses carrying the coffins of those who died in the doomed Malaysia Airlines MH17 pass by.
It is the Netherlands that has borne the brunt of the tragedy, with 193 Dutch lives lost, including many children.
Earlier, two transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, flew in to Holland’s Eindhoven airport from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv carrying the 40 coffins.
They touched down to the sound of tolling bells just before 3pm Irish time on Wednesday. Bells tolled throughout the Netherlands as the planes landed, with the Dutch king Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima as well as the prime minister Mark Rutte, present to see the aircraft arrive.
After the two giant planes had come to a halt on the runway, a trumpeter played The Last Post as Dutch troops saluted. This was followed by a one-minute silence.
The coffins were taken away in hearses for an identification process that could take weeks.
Relatives of the 298 people, who died aboard flight MH17 were also at Eindhoven.
Even as the planes were flying to Eindhoven, news came through of further violence in the Ukraine, with reports that two Ukrainian military fighter jets had been shot down about 20 miles south of the MH17 crash site.
In a statement, the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) said the on-site investigation in Ukraine was “currently in full swing”.
But it added: “Although investigators still do not have safe access to the crash site, work to gather and analyse data from various sources is under way in both Kiev and the Netherlands.”
As far as the on-site investigation was concerned, the DSB said: “At the time of writing, the investigators have not yet been able to visit the site of the crash and conduct their investigation under safe conditions.
“In order to conduct an effective investigation, the investigators must have the opportunity to move around the entire investigation site freely, investigate materials and traces from up close and secure them for further study where necessary.”
The board went on: “At present, the investigators’ safety has not been guaranteed. The DSB and other parties involved are continually working to gain access to the accident site, and are working with other parties to organise effective security so that the investigators can do their work under controlled and safe conditions.”