Statement by minister Opstelten, concerning the disaster involving flight MH17
On 18 July, the Minister of Security and Justice, Ivo Opstelten, issued a 3rd statement concerning the disaster involving flight MH17 (Malaysia Airlines), which crashed on 17 July in Ukraine.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This morning Malaysia Airlines announced that at least 173 Dutch nationals were known to have died in the disaster involving flight MH17. That number is hard to take in. The terrible reality of this disaster is starting to dawn on us. An investigation will have to determine the exact cause of the crash, though it seems extremely probable from the information currently at our disposal that MH17 was shot down.
It is crucial to find out exactly what happened. A great many Dutch nationals were killed, so it is important that the Netherlands, as part of the international investigation team, carry out investigations at the site of the crash at the earliest opportunity. The investigation will start as soon as possible, in consultation with the Ukrainian authorities.
The Dutch Safety Board will be involved in the investigation and will send a team of investigators to Kyiv as soon as possible. The focus is on the following elements: the cause of the accident, the passenger list and the plane's flight path. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs will provide you with more detailed information this afternoon at a press conference.
At present, we are concentrating on helping families and friends in concrete ways. They are being offered assistance and information. Everyone in the Netherlands is united in their sympathy for those who have lost loved ones. A book of condolence can be signed, either online at rijksoverheid.nl or here at my Ministry. I shall be signing it myself as soon as I have finished speaking to you.
A list of those who have lost friends or family is now being drawn up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Forensic Investigation Team. Victim Support Netherlands will set up a closed website to provide information for the friends and relatives of victims. The police will appoint family support officers to help the next of kin cope with their loss. For more information, relatives and friends can contact the team at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at +31 (0)70 348 77 70.
I am fully aware that it can sometimes take a long time before friends and family are told exactly what has happened. We are working as hard as we can to get information to them as quickly as possible. Many Dutch mayors find themselves in a very difficult position at present. Stories are circulating in many municipalities regarding the names of victims. However, until official identifications have been made, the municipal authorities cannot formally confirm these names: as you will appreciate, no one wants to hear via the media that his or her loved one has been killed.
The National Forensic Investigation Team will travel to the disaster site as soon as possible. They are currently preparing for departure. After identification, victims will be repatriated as soon as possible.
On Monday, there will be a closed information meeting for the victims' next of kin.
At present this is all the information I can give you. As soon as we know anything more, we will get back to you with all possible speed.