Headlines

Police collect DNA from
families of downed MH17
victims

The National Police said on Saturday they would continue to communicate with the families of the 12 Indonesians who died in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 incident, to collect more DNA samples from victims’ relatives to expedite the identification process.

The plane was allegedly shot down by a ground-to-air missile in eastern Ukraine.

As of Saturday, Malaysia Airlines had verified the nationalities of all 298 people on board MH17, confirming the 12 Indonesian passengers.

The deceased included 192 Dutch nationals (including one dual Netherlands-US citizen), 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew and two infants), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons (including 1 dual UK-South Africa citizen), four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, one Canadian and one New Zealander.

“We will communicate with the family members to collect DNA samples to identify the bodies,” National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said on Saturday.

Not all the dead bodies have been retrieved from the MH17 crash site in Grabovo village near Donetsk, the rebel-held territory near Ukraine’s border with Russia.

The crash site is under the control of rebel forces, though around 20 workers from Ukraine’s Emergencies Ministry and 30 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OCSE) do have access.

Soon after the crash, local firefighters arrived and marked the sites of body parts with poles and white ribbons.

Separately, the Central Java Police Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team visited the family of one of Indonesia’s 12 victims, Yuli Hastini, in Surakarta, to take DNA samples from three of her siblings, Antara news agency reported.

The team has also collected DNA samples from the family of Supartini in Karanganyar, Central Java.

Malaysia Airlines said its focus was now on “working with emergency responders and authorities and mobilizing its full support to provide all possible care to the next-of-kin”.

However, the Associated Press reported that Malaysia Airlines had no immediate plans to fly the relatives of the 298 passengers and crew killed in the incident to visit the site in Ukraine due to security concerns.

The family of one of the 12 Indonesian victims, Gerda Leliana Lahenda, expressed hope on Saturday that her body could soon be brought home to Indonesia to be buried.

“We have accepted it. Mother is now happy, she’s meeting God up there. But we will feel confused if her body is not here in Indonesia,” said a relative of Gerda, Aviani Lahenda, on Saturday.

The Jakarta Police collected DNA samples from Gerda’s two children on Friday night.

Malaysia expressed concerns on Saturday that the crash site had not been properly secured and called for immediate access to be given to a Malaysian team that arrived in Kiev earlier on Saturday, two days after the plane went down, to retrieve human remains.

“The integrity of the site has been compromised and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place,” Malaysian Transportation Minister Liow Tiong Lai said at a news conference on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, as quoted by the Associated Press.

An international delegation also visited the crash site on Friday evening, but was only allowed to view a small portion of it.

The Associated Press reported that Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site by helping militiamen remove 38 bodies from the site and taking them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

The Ukraine government said rebels were also “seeking large transports to carry plane fragments to Russia”.

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called for an independent, international investigation on Saturday into the downing of the aircraft and demanded Russia’s full cooperation.

Abbott repeated his assertion that all evidence suggested the missile that hit the aircraft came from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists who were using equipment likely supplied by Russia.

“This is a problem — a very serious problem,” Abbott said.

“Australia takes a very dim view of countries that facilitate the killing of Australians. The idea that Russia can wash its hands of responsibility because this happened in Ukrainian airspace just does not stand up to serious scrutiny. We all know what’s happening in Ukraine,” he said as quoted by the Associated Press.

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