Bodies put on train bound for rebel stronghold city

GRABOVO - Days after they fell out of the sky, the bodies of the passengers on board Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH17 were unceremoniously removed from where the plane crashed in eastern Ukraine and loaded onto a train bound for the rebel stronghold city of Donetsk.

At the biggest crash site, where emergency workers had bagged dozens of bodies last Saturday, all had been taken away yesterday, according to media outlets that have reporting teams at the scene.

Pro-Russian rebels who had been guarding the main site also appeared to have left, leaving behind about a dozen stretchers, paper masks and plastic gloves, according to an Agence France- Presse reporter.

Poles marking locations where bodies had been found in the field had also been removed.

Russian news agency Ria Novosti said a train with five refrigerated carriages carrying the bodies departed yesterday from a station close to the main crash site and was headed for Donetsk.

Monitors from the European security body, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), inspected the carriages in Torez station, Ria Novosti said, quoting them as saying 198 bodies were on board - presumably recovered from across the vast crash site. OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw described the stench at the station as "almost unbearable".

Pro-Russian rebels at Donetsk yesterday claimed to have recovered objects which appear to be the black boxes of the downed plane, Agence France-Presse said.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said the boxes would be handed over to "international experts if they arrive".

Earlier, CNN teams at the site reported that the situation there had shown some small signs of improvement, with more control and more activity.

But it was still far from a well-organised investigation scene, they said.

CNN also reported Ukraine's State Emergency Service (SES) as saying that the search at the crash site, in a remote area about 40km from the Russian border, was being "complicated by armed separatists".

The SES also said 380 official staff helped in the search for the remains of the 283 passengers and 15 crew members on board Flight MH17.

A big number - about 80 - were children. Given that the size of the area stretched over about 34 sq km, busloads of volunteers from local coal mines also turned up to help, CNN said.

A BBC reporter described seeing a bag, which was not closed, exposing a young man's naked body to view.

A militiaman whom he asked to close it shrugged.

"For the sake of the man's dignity, please close it," the reporter pleaded. Only then did the militiaman comply.

MAS has said that over half the passengers, or 193, were Dutch. There were 43 from Malaysia, 27 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, 10 from Britain, four each from Germany and Belgium, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

In the Netherlands, forensic teams have begun collecting material, including DNA samples from relatives, photographs of victims and details of any distinguishing features, to help them identify the remains, CNN said.

This article was first published on July 21, 2014.
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