KIEV, July 20 ― As many as 80 children died in the Malaysian Air jet crash in eastern Ukraine, according to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who called the fatalities “too awful for words.”
Twenty-three of those children were younger than 12 years old and three were infants, Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague today. The Netherlands lost 193 citizens in the crash, the largest group by nationality among the 298 victims.
Identification of bodies has been held up as investigators struggle to access the Ukrainian crash site, which is occupied by pro-Russia insurgents who have been blamed for shooting down the plane. Rutte said he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin today to urge him to take responsibility and use his influence over the rebels to allow the bodies to be recovered.
I think the entire country is desperate because we see those pictures and images of bodies that haven’t been recovered and are lying amid high temperatures,” he said. “I told him: you have to do everything you can. I wouldn’t know who else to call.”
Images from the area showed stuffed animals, colouring books and toys between the debris.
Malaysian Airline System Bhd published today a list of the names, nationalities and gender of those aboard Flight 17, which was hit on July 17 by what the US said was a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-held territory. Malaysian Air couldn’t immediately confirm the number of children on board.
Among the travellers, 140 were women. Forty-three Malaysians were killed and 27 Australians, the second- and third-worst hit nations after the Dutch, according to a statement from the airline.
“This means the victims now have a name and a face,” Rutte said. “This makes the images from the scene of the disaster even more horrendous. You see the remains of the plane, passengers and their personal belongings scattered.”
Among the people on the list are former International AIDS Society President Joep Lange, a well-known disease researcher, who was on the flight with his partner Jacqueline van Tongeren.
Also identified were World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Thomas; lobbyist Pim de Kuijer from the Netherlands’s AIDS Fund; and Dutch Labour Party senator Willem Witteveen and his wife, Lidwien, and daughter, Marit. ― Bloomberg