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Govt investigates SA-linked MH17 victims

While family members come forward, the international relations department says details are still sketchy.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 leaving Schiphol Airport the Netherlands, 17 July 2014. The aircraft crashed in eastern Ukraine shortly afterwards, with speculation it had been shot down. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/AMSTERDAM - Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane says government is now talking to the families of two people linked to South Africa who are believed to have been on board the Malaysian airliner which crashed in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.

A total of 298 crew and passengers were travelling on the Boeing 777 which was on its way from Amsterdam, Holland, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, when it was apparently shot down.

All those on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 were killed.

Malaysia Airlines has listed the nationalities of the majority of passengers but several are yet to be identified.

Minister Nkoana-Mashabane says the two people suspected to have links to South Africa were not traveling on South African passports.

"We are in constant touch with their families," she adds, "and we will communicate adequately when we have all the information."

Earlier, department spokesperson Nelson Kgwete explained, "They were travelling on foreign passports. For the purposes of the accident, they are regarded as citizens of those countries."

One of the two believed to be on board, Durban-born Cameron Dalziel, was employed at an international helicopter company based in Malaysia.

#MH17 Mourning tragic loss of one of worlds best rescue helicopter pilots, Cameron Dalziel Great man, father, husband pic.twitter.com/Si3DNqzz1o

His family confirmed to Eyewitness News that his wife received notification that the 43-year-old had boarded the plane.

His brother-in-law also called in to Talk Radio 702 and spoke to John Robbie about the news.

The other suspected victim, Thamsanqa Uyterlinde-Noto, was born to South African father Shadrack Noto.

The 27-year-old was born in Amsterdam and only had a Dutch passport.

Noto says his son was going to visit his girlfriend in Malaysia and that he spoke to him just 20 minutes before boarding the plane.

Traumatised by the news, Noto says he is trying to avoid television screens while he waits to find out for sure if his son was among the dead.

"It's just too heavy for me to look at those images," he says.

He adds that he's waiting for more information on an organised trip to Ukraine from Amsterdam for the families of victims.

'STOP POINTING FINGERS'

Meanwhile, Minister Nkoana-Mashabane has called on world leaders to stop drawing their own conclusions and speculating who is responsible for the disaster.

She says pointing fingers at Ukraine, Russia or pro-Russian militant groups in the east will not solve the mystery around the tragedy.

The minister says the focus must now be on the investigation so that the affected families can find closure.

"Let's help the families to heal and to console them at this very difficult moment," she said.

The scale of the disaster could prove a turning point to resolve the crisis in Ukraine which has seen hundreds killed since protests toppled the Moscow-backed president in February.

Russia annexed the Crimea area a month later.

Blame has been directed towards both sides of the conflict for the crash, with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying Ukraine should take full responsibility while Ukraine and many western nations have stated explicitly that Russia will have to explain its own involvement.

NETHERLANDS IN SHOCK

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, the country is in shock after learning that 154 of its citizens were killed in crash.

Late yesterday afternoon, relatives of the victims started arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, where the plane departed from.

They were quickly escorted away from the TV cameras and three buses later brought them to a crisis centre in a location which has not been disclosed.

Dutch national broadcaster NOS showed footage of the mourning crowd but was immediately criticised for doing so.

The most famous of the deceased identified so far is Joep Lange, the former president of the International Aids Society who was on his way to a large conference on HIV and Aids in Australia. His partner was also among the dead.

An online condolence book has been set up for the victims and the Aids fund is holding a staff meeting to commemorate their colleagues.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander has expressed his condolences as well while the Prime Minister Mark Rutte has rushed home from a holiday to deal with the crisis.

Crash site pictures: AFP.

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