MH17 crash: 30-member SMART team to recover remains from crash site

SEPANG: A 30-member Special Malay­sian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team will be in Kiev after the Ukrainian government promised to provide safe passage to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site.

Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the SMART team would be there to recover the remains of Malaysians who perished in the tragedy and collect their belongings.

The Transport Minister said another team comprising 15 medical staff, 10 Royal Malaysia Air Force representatives, five MAS officials and two Department of Civil Aviation personnel were en route to Kiev.

"We have also been given assurance by the Ukrainian government that they will provide us with safe passage to the crash site," he said at the Sama-Sama Hotel here yesterday.

Liow said MAS had also arranged for some 40 officials to be flown to Amsterdam to support the families of the victims.

MAS director of operations Capt Izham Ismail, who was at the press conference, said the airline would not fly the next of kin to Kiev.

Liow said the nationalities of 278 people on the flight had been identified, leaving 20 others to be verified.

He said the Dutch made up the majority of the passengers with 173 on board, followed by Malaysians (44), Australians (27), Indonesians (12), United Kingdom (nine), Germans (four), Belgians (four), Filipinos (three) and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

MAS is in the process of notifying the next of kin. Liow said once the families had been contacted, the passenger manifest would be released, adding that this would be followed by the cargo manifest.

Flight MH17 left Amsterdam at 12.15pm local time and had been scheduled to land at KL International Airport at 6.10am yesterday.

Liow said it was up to the next of kin of the passengers and crew to decide on what to do with the remains of the victims.

He had rushed back to Malaysia yesterday from Beijing after being alerted about the country's second tragic plane crash in less than five months.

Upon arriving at KLIA at 8am, he was immediately briefed by officials.

Liow, who was sworn in as Transport Minister on June 27, had been in Beijing to meet China's deputy foreign minister and transport minister about MAS Flight MH370, which went off the radar in March.

He was at a meeting with the Chinese officials only to be alerted about Flight MH17. He left for Malaysia immediately.