Malaysian jet crash in Ukraine: Live Report

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HONG KONG: 02:06 GMT – “If it should disappear” – In a chilling post just before he boarded the flight, young Dutch traveller Cor Pan posted an image of the doomed flight with the comment: “If it should disappear, this is what it looks like.”

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Pan, who appeared to be going on a beach holiday to Malaysia, posted the photo as a joking reference to missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Cor had earlier posted pictures of idyllic tropical beaches on his Facebook page, saying: “A few more days to wait yet…”

Comments by Pan’s friends on Facebook suggest that he was on MH17. Late on Thursday his picture had been shared more than 10,000 times on the social media site.

Petra Bleeker posted a picture of Cor and his girlfriend Neeltje Tol on which she superimposed a white rose, signifying death. It was unclear whether Tol was also on the flight.

“Such a beautiful couple who have been taken from life. I wish you the best wherever you are,” said Peter Bootsman.

01:59 GMT – A nation reels – AFP’s Jan Hennop reports from Schiphol airport that distraught and sobbing relatives were taken to a restaurant on the upper floor to shield them from the media massed below.

They then boarded buses headed for an unknown destination.

Around the country national flags have been lowered to half-mast and at embassies around the world.

“I am deeply saddened by this horrible news,” King Willem-Alexander said in a statement.

“Our thoughts go to the families, friends and colleagues of the victims, and to those who do not know yet if one of their loved ones was on board the plane.”

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was “deeply shocked” by the catastrophe, while Justice Minister Ivo Opstelten added that “the images I saw were terrible.”

Malaysian Airlines vice president Huib Gorter told a press briefing at Schiphol that a plane would take victims’ relatives to Ukraine to visit the crash site if they wished to make the trip.

01:57 GMT – Russian expletive – The strongly pro-Kiev Ukrainska Pravda news site later posted an audio recording of what it claimed were the intercepted field communications between rebels and a Russian agent discussing the downing.

“We just downed a plane,” a rebel the recording identifies as Bes (Demon) tells an alleged Russian military intelligency officer.

Another recording shows one alleged fighter reporting from the site of the plane’s remains that it was “100 percent certain this is a civilian aircraft.”

He spits out a Russian expletive when asked whether there were a lot of passengers on board.

01:56 GMT – A ‘bird fell’ – The rebels first claimed to have downed at least one Ukrainian army plane over the strife-torn eastern rustbelt.

The VK social networking page of Igor Strelkov — “defence minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic — first announced: “We just downed an An-26 near (the town of) Torez.”

“And here is a video confirming that a ‘bird fell’,” said the post.

“Credible” investigation

01:50 GMT – US “horrified” – US Secretary of State John Kerry expresses horror and calls for a “credible” international investigation.

“We are horrified by the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17,” Kerry says in a statement.

“The United States government remains prepared to assist with a credible, international investigation any way we can, and we will continue to be in touch with all relevant partners as we seek the facts of what happened today.”

01:47 GMT – Relatives arrive at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

01:44 GMT – Tributes to top AIDS researcher – Australia’s National AIDS Trust is paying tribute to leading AIDS researcher and former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.

“Reports Joep Lange died in Malaysian plane crash today, with other scientists on way to @AIDS_conference. Desperately sad news,” it says on Twitter.

American academic and AIDS activist Gregg Gonsalves is tweeting that “lots of AIDS researchers, activists, officials on downed Malaysia Airlines flight to Melbourne for Intl AIDS Conference”, naming Lange.

“Joep Lange was a leading AIDS researcher and clinician and an activist at heart. Lost today too soon on Malaysian flight 019 (sic). RIP,” says Gonsalves.

01:41 GMT – Complications – If it is confirmed that separatist fighters shot down the plane, it would further complicate Russian President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to paint their uprising as a fight for self-determination.

Russia’s state media has avoided any mention of the controversial posts and instead reported militia leaders’ later charges that the Ukrainian air force had shot down the Boeing 777 liner instead.

AFP – Manan Vatsyayana
01:38 GMT – A man looks at flight information screens at Kuala Lumpur International Airport

01:35 GMT – Possible Mistake – My colleague Dmitry Zaks reports from Kiev that social media posts by pro-Russian insurgents — most of them hastily removed — suggest the rebels thought they had shot down a Ukrainian army plane before realising in horror that it was in fact a packed Malaysian airliner.

The Twitter and blog messages were immediately publicised by top Kiev officials in their furious information war with the Kremlin for global opinion and the hearts and minds of ethnic Russians caught in the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

01:32 GMT – Malaysian shock – Malaysians have expressed shock and sadness on the country’s active social media sites.

“Deepest condolences, this is horrendous… Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members,” one user tweeted while and Ukraine were among top trending topics on Twitter in Malaysia.

An “MH17 Community” page on Facebook has attracted thousands of clicks of support.

01:31 GMT – Tearful families at KL – My colleague Julia Zappei is at Kuala Lumpur International Airport departure hall and reports dozens of journalists waiting outside a cordoned off area where families of those aboard are registering with Malaysia Airlines officials.

Tearful relatives arrived earlier, as well as several diplomats who wanted to check if their nationals are on the plane. Several policemen are on standby.

01:26 GMT – Self-proclaimed prime minister of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” Alexander Borodai (C) at the crash site

01:20 GMT – Many heading to AIDS conference – UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe has tweeted: “My thoughts & prayers to families of those tragically lost on flight . Many passengers were enroute to here in .”

The 20th International AIDS Conference is being held in Melbourne.

01:16 GMT – Russian President Vladimir Putin says Kiev bears responsibility for the crash, which comes as Ukrainian forces battle pro-Moscow insurgents in the east of the country.

As Malaysian investigators head to the scene, the UN Security Council has called an emergency session on Friday to discuss the disaster — the second to strike the airline in just four months.

Shocked world leaders have called for an international inquiry to determine the causes of the disaster with potentially far-reaching political implications, with Britain demanding a UN-led probe.

01:15 GMT – There also were 43 Malaysians, including the crew and two infants, and 27 Australians, it said, updating earlier figures as the airline works to verify passenger nationalities.

Twelve were Indonesians including an infant, nine were British, four were German, three were from the Philippines and one was Canadian.

The airline said four were Belgian but the Belgian foreign minister said five Belgians were on board.

Malaysia Airlines said the nationalities of 41 passengers remained unconfirmed.

01:14 GMT – Passenger nationalities – The carrier says there were 298 people, including 154 Dutch nationals, on board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

In an e-mailed statement it says the flight “was carrying a total number of 298 people — comprising 283 passengers including three infants of various nationalities and 15 crew of Malaysian nationality.”

01:09 GMT – First-aid workers gather on the site of the crash of a Malaysian airliner

01:07 GMT – WELCOME TO AFP’S LIVE REPORT after a Malaysian airliner carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed in strife-torn east Ukraine, with US officials saying it was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Ukraine’s government said the jet was shot down in a “terrorist act”, while comments attributed to a pro-Russia rebel chief suggested his men may have downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile said Kiev bore responsibility for the crash, which came as Ukrainian forces battle pro-Moscow insurgents in the east of the country.

AFP

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