World / Europe

Netherlands observes day of national mourning for MH17 victims

(Xinhua/Agencies) Updated: 2014-07-23 19:53

Netherlands observes day of national mourning for MH17 victims

A local woman lays a bouquet of flower on the grass in front of a Dutch airplane during a national day of mourning for the victims killed in Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane disaster last Thursday, in Eindhoven July 23, 2014.[Photo/Agencies]

THE HAGUE - The Netherlands held a day of national mourning Wednesday for the first time since 1962, commemorating the victims of the MH17 air crash disaster in eastern Ukraine.

Flags flew at half-mast at all main buildings of the central government, municipalities and provinces, and at Dutch diplomatic missions abroad.

Netherlands observes day of national mourning for MH17 victims

Special: Malaysian airliner crashes over Ukraine
Church bells will ring at different times of the day and for five minutes before the first aircraft with bodies of victims arrives in Eindhoven around 4 p.m local time (1400 GMT).

At 4 pm (1400 GMT), two military aircraft, a Dutch Hercules and an Australian Boeing C-17 transport plane are due to touch down at Eindhoven in the southern Netherlands, bearing the remains of the first of the crash victims.

After the plane lands, a minute's silence will be observed nationwide. The government has not stipulated that shops should close or events be canceled.

The two planes took off from Kharkiv carrying 40 plain wooden coffins after a brief solemn ceremony. The remains of an unknown number of victims were transported in refrigerated rail carriages from the rebel-held part of Ukraine on Tuesday.

With 193 of the dead from the Netherlands, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said almost every family in the country of 15 million knew someone who died or their relatives, contributing to a national mood of shock and grief.

"Think of all the people who were flying away on holiday, all the young people who had just finished their final school exams," said Jikkie van der Giessen from Amsterdam.

"They were looking fully toward the future and then you're shot down. Whether it was an accident or on purpose, the fact is it's horrible," she said.

A special prayer service will be held at St. George Church in Amersfoort, broadcast live on Dutch television while a silent march is scheduled to take place in Amsterdam in the evening.

The Netherlands does not have a tradition of national mourning days, but on Monday various political parties requested it as a way to commemorate the victims and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, "If the need arises, we can change that." It was announced on Tuesday that Wednesday would be designated a day of national mourning.

The last day of national mourning was Dec. 8, 1962, the day when late Queen Wilhelmina was interred. On that day many events were canceled across the country.

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