SHAKHTARSK, Ukraine – Panicky residents in an eastern Ukrainian town fled their homes Monday carrying a few possessions in plastic bags and small suitcases as shells exploded in the distance, fighting that also prevented an international police team from reaching the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash.
The fighting there and elsewhere in the area kept Dutch and Australian police for the second day from reaching the site of the jet crash, where they had planned to begin searching for remaining bodies and gathering forensic evidence.
The jet crashed July 17, killing all 298 people onboard, while flying over a part of eastern Ukraine where government forces and pro-Russia separatist rebels have been fighting for months.
A Ukrainian official said Monday that data from the recovered flight recorders show that Flight 17 crashed because of a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council, said the plane suffered massive explosive decompression after it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said that at least 1,129 people have been killed between mid-April, when fighting began, and July 26. The report said at least 3,442 people had been wounded and more than 100,000 people had left their homes. A U.N. report from mid-June put the death toll at 356.