MELBOURNE, July 18:
A Dutch scientist and a World Health Organisation spokesman heading to an AIDS meeting in Melbourne were among 298 Malaysia Airlines passengers and crew killed on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
Many passengers on board flight MH17, which crashed over Ukraine, were en route to the 20th International AIDS Conference, Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on AIDS said on his Twitter page.
There were 108 AIDS meeting delegates on the flight, the Australian newspaper reported today, without citing anyone. A voicemail and text message left on the mobile phone of the conference’s communications coordinator wasn’t immediately returned.
Former US president Bill Clinton and Bob Geldof are among thousands of public figures, AIDS researchers and people living with HIV expected to attend the July 20-25 event.
“The International AIDS Society today expresses its sincere sadness,” it said in a statement on the meeting’s website.
“At this incredibly sad and sensitive time, the IAS stands with our international family and sends condolences to the loved ones of those who have been lost to this tragedy.”
Among those confirmed killed were Glenn Thomas, a Geneva- based spokesman for the WHO, said Rachel Baggaley, coordinator of the UN agency’s HIV prevention program, who arrived in Melbourne earlier today.
“We are in shock,” Baggaley said over the telephone. “It’s casting a shadow over the whole thing.”
Joep Lange, head of global health at the Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, was also on board the flight, the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper reported on its website.
Lange was one of several European researchers on the flight and heading to the Melbourne conference, the report said.
Flight MH17 crashed about 30km from the Russian border in the main battleground of Ukraine’s civil war.