GRABOVE, Ukraine – Workers started winching debris from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on to trucks in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, paving the way for its eventual return to the Netherlands four months after it was downed, killing 298 people.
A crew from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic – the pro-Moscow separatists who hold the territory – supervised by Dutch experts used metal saws to cut up the wreckage before it was lifted on to trucks at the remote crash site near the village of Grabove.
Pieces of the engine, cabin and a seat were clearly identifiable among the charred wreckage of the doomed Boeing 777.
"The first pieces of debris from the MH17 wreckage were gathered up today," said a statement from the Dutch Safety Board, whose investigators are leading the probe into the shooting down of the July 17 flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
"If circumstances permit, work will restart tomorrow. We expect that the gathering up and removal of debris will take a number of days." After being collected, the debris from the airliner will be transported to the government-controlled city of Kharkiv and then flown to the Netherlands.
The Dutch experts eventually intend to reconstruct a section of the doomed airliner.
A rebel official said the crew of some 15 people from Donetsk's emergency ministry hoped to finish the operations in the next 10 days and that they would focus on the largest chunks of fuselage first.
The team faces a race to complete the recovery effort before harsh winter conditions in the former Soviet state make it difficult to continue. — AFP