Australia Holds National Day of Mourning as Authorities Abandon MH17 Search Due to Worsening Fights

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By Reissa Su | August 7, 2014 12:40 PM EST

Australian and Dutch authorities have abandoned their search for the remains of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 disaster. In a statement, Australian envoy Angus Houston and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced that it was "impossible" for them to continue the search amid the worsening conflict in Ukraine.

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/Files
Flowers and mementos left by local residents lie on wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region in this July 19, 2014 file photo.

Houston's statement was released while more than a hundred forensic experts and other investigators were preparing to ride a bus away from the MH17 crash site. The Australian and Dutch teams have dodged bombs in an attempt to access the site.

Australia holds its national day of mourning for the MH17 victims including the 38 Australian citizens who perished in the crash after the Malaysian jet was shot down from the sky on July 17.

Houston said the first phase of the "humanitarian mission" to the MH17 crash site has ended. He reiterated their purpose which was only to recover the remains quickly while it was safe. Houston suggested the lack of security has investigators staying away from the site for many hours. Search efforts were limited to only 30 minutes on August 4, according to reports.

However, the Dutch prime minister promised families they would return to the MH17 crash site. He explained the international experts had to leave because it was becoming too dangerous to remain any longer. Mr Rutte said the search for remains will continue at some time in the future.

The increasing tension has made it difficult for the teams including 500 Australians to continue searching for human remains.

Meanwhile, Australian flags in government buildings will fly at half mast as the nation grieves for the MH17 victims in an official and public memorial service in Melbourne. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australians will give thanks for their lives and pray for their families.

He said the memorial will be an interdenominational service to honour the lives of the Australian passengers who perished among the 298 people on board MH17. Mr Abbott declared that all Australians are mourning the loss of 298 innocent lives on flight MH17. He said the deaths of the MH17 victims "offend our sense of justice." The prime minister once again offered his sympathies and support to the families as they go through trying times.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev/Files / )
Flowers and mementos left by local residents lie on wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region in this July 19, 2014 file photo.
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