The Netherlands’ prime minister has called a halt to the search for remains of victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster in Ukraine, saying it is too dangerous to continue.
At a press conference in The Hague, Mark Rutte praised the effort of the recovery mission so far and promised victims’ families the search would resume at some time in the future.
Flight 17 was shot down in Eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people on board. Around 228 coffins have been returned to the Netherlands.
Mr Rutte also said information from a Ukrainian military doctor who had overseen operations in the days immediately following the crash “has changed the recovery team’s perception of an earlier effort undertaken by local authorities”.
“There was an intensive search in the area with 800 volunteers,” he said.
The Dutch-led international recovery team that arrived in the area later has not found a large number of human remains.
He said it appears “fortunately that more was done after the disaster than we thought until now”.
Earlier, the Dutch Safety Board said its preliminary report into the cause of the disaster will likely not be released until some time in September.
Spokesman Wim van der Weegen said normally under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules, a preliminary report is published one month after a crash date.
But the difficulty in accessing the crash site amid fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels has pushed the timeframe back.
“It’s a very complicated situation,” he said.