MH17 Malaysia Airlines crash: '20 civilians killed in Luhansk' as shelling continues

Ukraine's rebel-held city had water and electricity supplies cut off on Friday

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The Independent Online

At least 20 civilians have died when shelling continued in the rebel-held city of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine this morning, just hours after the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, the Luhansk city administration has reported.

The city’s official administration said the deaths came on “another black day” where shells hit almost every district in the city as Ukraine's forces continued to advance against pro-Russian rebels.

In a statement, it said: "Today intense bombardment of Luhansk has continued. Shells are falling in almost all districts of the city. According to preliminary information, more than 20 civilians have been killed since this morning."

Shelling in the troubled eastern region also damaged an electricity substation and reduced access to water supplies after the powercut halted water pumping stations, according to the BBC.

The conflict continued as it emerged nine Britons are among the 298 passengers who died when the Boeing 777-200 was downed as it passed over the Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk on Thursday.

Video: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash

The President of Ukraine, Petro Poreshenko, has described the incident as "an act of terrorism", while Vladimir Putin has said "the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility" on Friday.

Both sides have accused each other of shooting the plane as it flew over Ukrainian territory.

Most of the passengers on board were Dutch, alongside 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 12 Indonesians and nine Britons. The nationalities of four passengers remains unknown.

On Friday, the carrier’s vice president told a news conference relatives of those who died in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine will each receive 5,000 US dollars (about £3,000) towards their immediate needs.

Huib Gorter also said the airline hopes to fly relatives to Ukraine, although he warned the crash site is in difficult terrain around 300 miles from the capital Kiev.

He added that those next of kin who had made their way to Schipol airport were being accommodated at a hotel. "We want to ensure we are a caring company and we want to ensure families get the best we can offer," he said.

Mr Gorter said the airline had its own care team looking after the families, who were also being assisted by Schipol's staff and by airline partner KLM.