TIME Travel

These Are the World’s Best Biking Cities

From Amsterdam to Portland

Whether you’re hungering for wide-open vistas, riverfront views, or access to cultural sites, here’s how to pound the pavement from your bicycle seat this summer.

  • Malmö, Sweden

    malmo-sweden
    Peter Forsberg—Alamy

    As proof that Sweden’s third-largest city (pop. 318,000) adores bicycles, look no further than the free bike pumps along cycling paths. Then there’s the 300-plus miles of paths reserved for bikes (more than in Stockholm), which are used for nearly 30 percent of trips within Malmö. In under three hours you can easily tour the city by bike.

  • Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    amsterdam-netherlands
    Dennis Cox—Alamy

    In central Amsterdam, bikes—as opposed to cars—are the norm, and 60 percent of people use the mode of two-wheel transportation. On the down side: bicyclists tend to whiz past you during a leisurely ride. Witness Dutch icons like windmills, fields of tulips, and storied castles by straying outward to North Amsterdam. With your rental bike in tow, hop a free ferry behind the central Amsterdam station and, once in North Amsterdam, travel through farm villages like Broek-in-Waterland and Uidam (11 miles total) before heading back to your hotel.

  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.A.

    minneapolis-minnesota-usa
    Greg Ryan—Alamy

    The Midwestern city counts five percent of its population (that’s 20,000 people, and the second-highest percentage in the U.S.) as two-wheel commuters—yes, even through the often bitter-cold winter. Local roaster Peace Coffee even delivers its beans by bike. Visitors can tool around the city on shared bikes through Nice Ride MN, or try out some 118 miles of on-street bikeways and 92 miles of off-street bikeways. Try the 5.7-mile Midtown Greenway, which takes you over the Martin Olav Sabo Bridge and grants access to the Chain of Lakes.

  • Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.

    portland-oregon-usa
    Danita Delimont—Alamy

    This Pacific Northwest city is crammed with cyclists—so much so that the city developed nine urban routes. The “Short, Steep, & Sweet,” a 15-mile hilly climb, winds through Portland’s West Hills neighborhood and affords views of Tualatin Valley before coasting downhill to Washington Park. Promoting paths like this is all part of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030, which hopes that 25 percent of all residents’ trips will be done on bike.

  • Copenhagen, Denmark

    copenhagen-denmark
    Niels Quist—Alamy

    Copenhagen is arguably the best biking city in the world, as evidenced by its 242 miles of designated bike lanes and the new Cycle Super Highway—a 13.7-mile stretch connecting Copenhagen with the suburb of Albertslund ,and the first of 26 “highways” just for bicyclists. There’s also the Instagram-worthy, year-old Cykelslangen, an elevated two-way bike lane painted bright orange, which connects the highway and harbor bridge.

  • Montreal, Quebec, Canada

    montreal-quebec-canada
    All Canada Photos/Alamy

    Canada’s most French metropolis is naturally going to be en amour with bicycles. Rent a two-wheeler through Bixi and opt for a ride along the Lachine Canal, where a bike path debuted during the 1970s. To reach the canal, depart from downtown on either Guy or Peel Streets. Bonus: along the 18.6-mile trip, you’ll have the chance to pop into Old Montreal and Old Port, adding just six miles to the journey.

  • Bordeaux, France

    bordeaux-france
    Vito Arcomano—Alamy

    In this bustling, pedestrian-friendly region, about 124 miles of bike paths satisfy a city of only 236,000. For a quick five-mile route that straddles both left and right banks, depart from Place Gambetta for views of world-class monuments (Grand Théâtre, Place de la Bourse, Porte Cailhau and Place du Palais) from your bicycle seat along Cours de l’Intendance, Cours du Chapeau Rouge, and Pont de Pierre.

  • Beijing, China

    beijing-china
    maurice joseph—Alamy

    While the chief reason for bicycling in this city—home to 20.2 million people—might be automobile congestion, it’s nonetheless a valid one. To avoid Beijing’s auto-traffic crunch, cruise along the Tongzhou canal, a 10-mile flat route that’s mostly vehicle-free and kicks off from the Grand Canal’s east bank (where Yunhe Xi Dajie turns into Tonghu Nan Lu). From this route it’s easy to enter the Grand Canal Ecological Route. Expect to see wetlands, bridges, river islands, and garden sculptures. There are also many spots along the way to stop for a picnic, so long as you’ve packed your own food.

  • Bogotá, Colombia

    bogota-colombia
    Robert Harding World Imagery/Alamy

    Outfitted with a 211-mile network of bicycle paths, Colombia’s largest city is in the middle of a commuting renaissance. Plan your trip over a Sunday to experience car-free roads between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m., a tradition that’s been going strong since the 1970s. Among today’s most popular cycling routes in Bogotá are those on the Complementary Network, which showcases the city’s green spaces and traveling along riverbanks.

    Read the full list here. This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure

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  • Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.A.

TIME The Netherlands

Terrifying Video Shows Dutch Cranes Collapsing on Buildings

Emergency workers don't yet know how many people may have been caught in the rubble

Two cranes collapsed on residential buildings in the Netherlands on Monday, reportedly causing a number of injuries but no fatalities.

The cranes were hoisting a large steel ramp onto a bridge over the Rhine river in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn when they tilted over and crushed the nearby buildings, according to the BBC.

Early reports had indicated that 20 people were injured, but that number actually reflected the total number of people who may have been inside the buildings at the time, a spokesperson for the fire brigade now says. The actual number of injuries is unknown. An emergency response team is on the scene attempting to rescue anyone who may be in the rubble, and at least one person has been taken to a hospital.

In the video, people can be heard screaming as the cranes lean into the building.

[BBC]

TIME remembrance

The World Marks the First Anniversary of the MH17 Aviation Disaster

One year on, investigations into the tragedy are still ongoing

Friday marks one year since Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over conflict-torn eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

The Boeing 777 was on route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam when it crashed in pro-Russian rebel-held territory on July 17, 2014.

The Dutch Safety Board is due to release the final report into the cause of the crash in October, reports the BBC. It is widely believed by Kiev and Western nations that Russian-backed rebels shot down the plane. Moscow denies this and instead blames the Ukrainian military.

A criminal probe launched by a joint investigation team consisting of detectives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine is also ongoing.

A public memorial service was held in Australia’s capital, Canberra, on Friday and a permanent memorial plaque was unveiled to commemorate the 38 Australians who died.

“In the worst of times you have displayed the strength of giants and the grace of angels and I am humbled by you,” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the crowd, which included family members of those who perished. “We owe it to the dead to bring the guilty to justice.”

Memorial events are also being held in Ukraine as well as the Netherlands, from where 193 of the victims hailed.

In Kuala Lumpur, a service was held on July 11, a week before the anniversary as it would otherwise clash with the Eid al-Fitr festival, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

“The end goal is clear — to bring the perpetrators to justice, and ensure they pay for this unforgivable crime,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement on the eve of the anniversary.

Malaysia is leading calls from several countries for a U.N. tribunal to prosecute those responsible for downing the flight. On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected establishing an international tribunal, saying it would be counterproductive.

Meanwhile, a new video obtained by News Corp. Australia purports to show the rebels filming themselves ransacking the luggage of passengers from MH17.

In the footage, men appear to believe they have come across the wreck of a Ukrainian fighter jet but minutes later realize the aircraft is a commercial liner.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the video was “sickening to watch.”

Warning: The video contains graphic content that some viewers may find distressing

TIME Diet/Nutrition

How Europe Will Help Ease America’s Egg Crisis

But it may not be enough

America has an egg crisis. The avian flu (H5N2) outbreak has killed or fatally infected more than 10 percent of domestic egg-laying hens—35 million in all. That has sent the price of a carton of eggs skyrocketing 120% in the past month, according to commodity market research firm Urner Barry.

The epidemic has opened the door to the first European egg imports in more than a decade, courtesy of the Netherlands and Germany. The first shipment of between 7 and 8.5 million eggs is already en route from Germany and will arrive in the U.S. next week. It’s part of an initial contract between the U.S. and Germany for up to 28 million German eggs, and a contract for another 28 million is “in the works,” Rick Brown, senior vice president of Urner Barry, told TIME.

However, you probably won’t taste the difference in the German and Dutch eggs, because so far the U.S. is only importing eggs that will be used in products—egg whites or yolks in liquid or powdered form—not sold as fresh eggs.

“The fresh eggs for the supermarkets need to be real fresh,” Hubert Andela, the chairman of the Dutch Association of Egg Packers (ANEVEI), told TIME. “Transporting them by ship from the Netherlands to the [U.S.] takes too long and flying them is very expensive.” Eggs sold in cartons at the supermarket need to be kept frozen or in a dry, cold environment, making the transportation process complicated and costly.

This means that the imports, which Andela said this week were “about to get started” from the Netherlands, are limited to egg products. That will likely result in a lot of egg white powder crossing the Atlantic, Andela said, noting that the protein is the most desired component of eggs for American consumers (who might actually be getting too much), and that domestic yolk remains cheap in the U.S. Contrary to popular belief, egg whites have more protein than egg yolks; the whites of one large egg contain 3.6 grams, while the yolk contains only 2.4 grams.

Most of the egg flavor comes from the yolk, according to Andela, so American consumers will almost certainly not notice a change in taste. Flavor is also “influenced by the feed for the laying hens and this can differ from one farm to another,” so different tastes can be found among domestic producers as it is.

This is the first time in more than three decades that American egg producers have been hit with such a large avian flu outbreak. Between 1983 and 1984, an outbreak in Pennsylvania killed 17 million hens.

To keep eggs flowing onto Americans’ plates during the current bird flu epidemic, the U.S. has approved egg imports from seven countries—Chile, Argentina, France, Spain and Portugal, in addition to the Netherlands and Germany—after the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has found that their safety standards were equivalent to those in the U.S.

While the European egg shipments will be a welcome addition to the American market, they will likely not be enough to make up for all the hens that were lost to the bird flu.

Brown, from Urner Barry, estimated that the 35 million hens affected by the bird flu had produced 28 million eggs per day; by comparison, the U.S. will likely be importing a maximum of 28 million eggs per month from Germany. The Dutch will also help, sending what Andela predicted would be the whites of several hundred million eggs per year. But even that will not be sufficient.

“We’ve lost a lot more than we could possibly import,” Brown said.

TIME Behind the Photos

See Striking and Colorful Fields of Dutch Tulips

Nature photographer George Steinmetz hitched a ride aboard a helicopter over Holland's fields of tulips

It’s that time of the year, when large parts of The Netherlands become a striking patchwork of colors.

The country is a leader in the export of cut flowers, with a 52% share of the global market. And tulips are especially popular.

So, when photographer George Steinmetz was offered a ride over the country’s largest fields, he didn’t hesitate. “I’ve been doing aerial photos for a long time,” he tells TIME. “I had a friend in Holland who saw that I was in Stuttgart, Germany, for an exhibition, and he said, ‘You should come to Amsterdam, I’m going to fly over fields of tulips, if you want a ride in a helicopter.’ It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

Sitting in the front seat, Steinmetz felt like an aerial paparazzo, he says: “When you’re that low in the sky, it’s kind of like street photography. It’s kind of instinctive. If you think too much, you screw things up.”

In fact, he adds, “it’s good not to have too many rules when you go up. You just want to look around. Generally for that subject matter it’s nice to have people to give a sense of scale and activity. Otherwise, you don’t know if you’re looking at a close up of a carpet or a sweater. You try to look for patterns. The best way to shoot this, I think, is with a telephoto lens. You go up and you respond to what you’re seeing.”

In the end, Steinmetz is the first to admit that his images are “chroma-porn,” he says. “The colors are so bright, and that kind of thing works very well on Instagram.”

George Steinmetz is an independent photographer and a frequent contributor to National Geographic and GEO.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

TIME foreign affairs

Malaysia Flight 17: The Unique Way the Dutch Mourn

With their innate distrust of ideology, the Dutch are strikingly different from Americans in their gut reactions.

A cultural conundrum that I struggled to comprehend during my six years of living in Amsterdam concerned the Dutch attitude toward celebrities. They are passionate about their own celebrities – far more than about Hollywood stars, which is fair enough – but in the midst of intensely gossiping about a homegrown film or sports personality, they will suddenly turn blasé, as if the celeb were a mere family member who had started to become uppity.

The explanation is in the size of the nation. When you’ve got a total population of 16 million crammed into a country smaller than most individual U.S. states, everyone is within a couple of degrees of separation of everyone else. Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, and the other stars of the country’s World Cup team are brought down to Earth by the fact that, chances are, you know them, or your uncle does.

That thought came to mind as I’ve watched somber memorials unfold like dreams in cities all over the country this week. Roughly two-thirds of the 298 people who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were Dutch. I asked several Dutch friends how they were doing. As I more or less expected, every one of them knew at least one person who was on the plane. One, who lives in The Hague, said her daughter was friends with a girl whose entire family was on the flight: they were going on vacation to Borneo. “They were in primary school together and took the same ballet lessons,” my friend said of her daughter and the girl who died. “When you think of their empty house, it is all very unreal.”

A few people want to lash out, saying the country should strike out against Russia. Someone posted the address of Vladimir Putin’s daughter, who lives in the Netherlands, on the Facebook page of the Netherlands-Russia Center. There are some vicious tweets.

But in the main the reaction to the sudden loss of a cross-section of Dutch society – the proportionate loss of life for a country the size of the United States would be about 6,000 people – has been muted. The government declared a national day of mourning, but events were already taking place everywhere, in a natural, non-official way. A mountain of flowers in front of a restaurant in Rotterdam. A pall of silence descending on the “Rose Kermis” gay festival in Tilburg. The deaths were evenly spread all over the country, and the memorials are localized.

The Dutch are strikingly different from Americans in their gut reactions to things. When hit with a national shock, Americans will almost instinctively reach for ideology or ideals. People saw 9/11 as an assault on “freedom.” The Dutch have an innate distrust of ideology. You could relate that to World War II and their experience under Nazism, but it goes much farther back. It has something to do with being a small country surrounded by larger countries that have had long histories of asserting themselves.

It also stems from the fact that Dutch society grew not out of war against a human foe but out of the struggle against nature. Living in low lands on a vast river delta, the Dutch came together to battle water. Building dams and dikes and canals was more practical than ideological. For better or worse, the Dutch are more comfortable with meetings and remembrances than with calls to arms.

Geography has defined destiny throughout Dutch history. The little country has reached outward, and prospered thanks to its ability to trade and engage with others; it also has proven a safe for refugees from less tolerant lands. Even before its 17th century golden age, Holland had become an intensely polyglot hub for goods and ideas, intricately connected with farflung places.

Flight 17 reflects and updates that history. Of course, by definition the plane was packed with travelers. But this tragedy gives an inadvertent indication of how racially mixed the country has become. Among the Dutch passengers listed on the flight manifest were a Vietnamese family who lived in Delft, the city of Vermeer; a Chinese couple from Rotterdam; a Dutch-Israeli student; a Dutch-Malaysian family; a Dutch-American; people born in Curacao and South Africa; and others with German, Indonesian and British backgrounds.

We hear about the growing multiethnicity of the country mostly through the screeching of right-wing fanatic Geert Wilders, member of parliament and leader of the Freedom Party, who riles up some elements of society by declaring that newcomers (read Muslims) are torpedoing Dutch traditions and turning the land of windmills into a giant mosque. The international media is a sucker for Wilders because he seems to give the lie to what the Dutch are most famous for (besides tulips and marijuana cafes): tolerance. The Dutch pioneered the concept in the 16th century, enshrining it in their de facto Constitution two centuries before “all men are created equal.” America’s history–especially New York’s–was deepling influenced by it, via the Dutch colony of New Netherland and its capital of New Amsterdam on Manhattan.

Wilders knows that the media always glom onto a counter-narrative, and he has used that fact repeatedly to his own advantage and to the detriment of his country’s image abroad. But one truth revealed by this tragedy is that the country is quietly becoming a melting pot, a place intricately connected to other parts of the world. The Dutch people who died on MH17 mirror their own rapidly evolving society, and remind the rest of us that our futures don’t lie in tribalism, but in expanding our connections.

Russell Shorto is the author of Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME eastern Ukraine

Ukrainian Pilots Missing After 2 Jets Shot Down in East

Two Ukrainian military jets shot down
Sergey Popsuevich—EPA A file picture dated September 17, 2007 shows Ukrainian Su-25 attack planes during manoeuvres at the landfill in Rovno, Ukraine. Pro-Russian separatists have shot down two Ukrainian military jets in the east of the country, Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskiy said on July 23, 2014.

Both pilots ejected safely but their whereabouts are unknown

Pro-Russia separatist rebels shot down two Ukrainian military planes over eastern Ukraine Wednesday, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council told TIME. Both pilots ejected from their aircraft but remain missing.

An aide to separatist leader Alexander Borodai, told CNN that the two jets had been shot down by rebel fighters using a shoulder-fired missile system. However, Yarema Dukh, the Council’s press secretary, says that the jets were shot down from an altitude of 17,000 feet, an altitude she says is too high for those systems to reach. The aircrafts’ altitude, Dukh says, is instead a sign that “the planes may have been shot down by another plane.”

On top of that, though, it’s widely believed that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777 which crashed in eastern Ukraine on July 17, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, which most likely originated from rebel-controlled territory. Flight 17 was traveling at 33,000 feet at the time of the suspected shoot-down — much higher than the Ukrainian jets.

The two jets shot down Wednesday, both Soviet-built Sukhoi Su-25 attack aircraft, were among four fighter planes returning to base after supporting Ukrainian government forces along the Russia-Ukraine border, the Council said in a press conference Wednesday. They were hit over the Savur Mogila area close to the border around 1:30 p.m. local time.

The Ukrainian aircraft were flying in the same area as where Flight 17 crashed, killing all 298 people on board. On Wednesday, 40 of the 200 MH17 passengers’ bodies thus far recovered arrived in the Netherlands for identification. The flight’s two black boxes also safely reached investigators in Britain Wednesday.

In the days before the MH17 disaster, a Ukrainian An-26 transport plane and another Su-25 jet were also shot down. A second Su-25 was fired upon, but the pilot managed to land his plane with minimal damage.

TIME Flight MH17

Ukraine Says 2 Military Jets Shot Down Over East

As UK investigators began analysis of MH17 black boxes, and the bodies of Dutch victims were flown home

Ukraine said that two of its fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over eastern Ukraine, the Associated Press reports, less than a week after a passenger jet was downed in the same region. The news came as the two black boxes from the downed MH17 jet arrived in Britain and 40 of the recovered 200 bodies were being flown to the Netherlands.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that two of its military fighter jets were downed over eastern Ukraine. The two jets, both Sukhoi-25 planes, were shot down at 1:30pm local time over the Savur Mogila area. It is not yet known whether those on board have survived. A spokesperson for the ministry said the planes could have been carrying up to two people each.

Whilst the Ukrainian government tries to ascertain what has happened, the U.K. Air Accidents Investigation Branch has begun to investigate the two flight recorders from flight MH17, the BBC reports, which were handed over to Malaysian experts by Ukrainian rebels late Monday.

Aviation experts from the organization will try to download data from the black boxes in accordance with a request from Dutch authorities heading up the investigation. The data should be downloaded within the next two days and will then be sent to the Dutch investigators. It is hoped that the flight recorders will be able to confirm whether a missile hit flight MH17.

The black boxes’ arrival comes as the first 40 bodies of the 298 victims were being flown to Eindhoven in the Netherlands. It is expected that they will arrive at 4pm local time.

They will be met by members of the Dutch royal family and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as part of a national day of mourning for the deceased. 193 of the 298 passengers onboard flight MH17 were Dutch nationals.

All 200 of the recovered bodies arrived in Kharkiv, Ukraine in a refrigerated train carriage Tuesday, following repeated international demands for their safe return.

Following a solemn ceremony attended by ambassadors, soldiers and officials, 40 coffins were loaded onto two military planes bound directly for Eindhoven. They will then be taken to barracks south of Hilversum for identification. Rutte has warned, however, that this could take months.

Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17. All 298 people on board were killed. Washington said Wednesday that they had clear evidence the plane was downed by an SA-11 missile “fired from eastern Ukraine under conditions the Russians helped create.”

[BBC]

TIME #MH17

What Looks Like an MH17 Passenger’s Photo, Taken Before the Crash, Goes Viral

“If it disappears, this is what it looks like”

When Cor Pan — the Facebook identity of a man who appears to have been a passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — was waiting to board his flight to Kuala Lumpur, he did what many passengers often do. He took a picture of what seems to be the ill-fated plane, while with his traveling companion and girlfriend, identified as Neeltje Tol, at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport.

But it’s the caption of the photo that makes the image particularly unnerving.

“If it disappears, this is what it looks like,” wrote the Dutch resident on his Facebook page — a reference to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in March. The photo has since gone viral on social media.

It cannot be confirmed if the passenger’s full name is Cor Pan, as he also goes by the last name Schilder. What is evident, however, is the pain and heavy stream of condolences written on Pan and Tol’s Facebook pages from loved ones who believe they’re never returning home.

TIME The Netherlands

Anguish in Amsterdam as Families of Flight MH17 Passengers Arrive at Airport

Official says 154 people from the Netherlands were on board the flight bound for Kuala Lumpur

Updated 4:55 a.m. ET Friday

The relatives started arriving at Schiphol Airport as the sun began to set on a warm Amsterdam evening. They gathered briefly, bewildered, at a bar area inside the departure hall before police ushered them onto airport shuttle buses to an undisclosed location in the airport, where they would start their anguished wait for news of family members they feared lost on Flight MH17.

Some of the men and women were tearful and clung to each other; most looked shell-shocked, staring blankly ahead as the buses pulled out, seemingly unable to process news of a tragedy apparently caused by a conflict so far away. Dutch reporters who arrived at the scene early said there were scenes of confusion when the first relatives arrived, unsure of where to go and asking passers-by for help.

Airport officials were also initially at a loss to direct the television crews and journalists who came from all over the world, with a press conference delayed by hours. When a Malaysia Airlines executive and an airport official finally appeared to talk to the media, they offered words of comfort for relatives, but little information about the cause of a crash deep in a conflict zone in Ukraine.

“Our main priority is to look after people who are suffering at the moment,” said Huib Gorter, senior vice president for Europe for Malaysia Airlines. “You cannot imagine what has happened to these people … All our manpower is dedicated to helping them.”

A full passenger list of the 298 people aboard the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was not released, but a gasp went up from the Dutch press when Gorter announced that 154 people from the Netherlands were on board. There were also 27 from Australia, 43 from Malaysia (including crew and two infants), 12 from Indonesia (including another infant) and others from Europe, the Philippines and Canada, according to a statement posted Thursday by Malaysia Airlines.

For those relatives who wish to travel closer to the site of the tragedy, a flight will be provided to Kiev, possibly departing tomorrow. But Gorter also spoke about the difficulty in reaching the crash site, which is about seven or eight hours by road from the Ukrainian capital. Asked if it was safe for the plane to be flying over a war zone, he said: “It is classified as a safe area to fly over, otherwise in our industry we would not be able to file a flight plan over an area that is dangerous.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up a helpline for friends and relatives, while the Dutch airliner KLM – which was on a code-share agreement with the Kuala Lumpur–bound flights – announced they were suspending flights over Ukraine “as a precautionary measure.” Air France and Lufthansa have also both suspended flights through Ukrainian air space.

Joss Wibisono, an Indonesian journalist and author based in Amsterdam, says his aunt, Jane Adi Soetjipto, 73, was among the passengers who died aboard flight MH17. “Every year Aunt Jane visited the Netherlands to see her mom” and other family members, says Wibisono.

Wibisono and his extended family are Indonesian immigrants who have lived in the Netherlands for decades. On Wednesday morning, the family took Soetjipto and her friend to Schiphol Airport: “She flew back to her home country [Indonesia] with her close friend, Aunt Gerda Lahenda,” Wibisono says, adding his aunt’s seat was 14A and her friend’s 14C. Both women had been in the Netherlands since April.

In the late afternoon when Wibisono was preparing to watch Tour de France, he saw a news announcement on TV about the Malaysia Airlines plane that had been downed in eastern Ukraine. “I immediately knew it was Aunt Jane’s flight,” he tells TIME. He contacted her family in Jakarta and also called Soetjipto’s sister who lives in a small town in southeast Holland. “They didn’t know, and became hysterical,” Wibisono says. “I am very shocked. I couldn’t sleep.”

The Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, flew back from a European Union summit in Brussels, saying he was “deeply shocked by the dramatic reports on the crash.” His Justice and Security Minister, Ivo Opstelten, said there were “victims from many countries.” On Friday morning, Rutte called for an investigation into the crash that killed mostly Dutch passengers. “The next of kin of the 154 Dutch victims and all the other nationalities have the right to know what happened,” Rutte said, according to the Associated Press.

“The images that you and I have seen are of course terrible,” he was quoted as saying by Dutch newspaper Volkskrant. “I am aware that this investigation cannot go fast enough, but everyone at this time is doing everything possible to inform family and friends.”

Germany has called for an independent investigation into the cause of the crash. “The separatists must immediately grant emergency and security services access to the crash site and an independent, international investigation must commence immediately,” Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said. “I’m horrified … with hundreds of completely innocent people having died in this terrible way, words fail you.”

— With reporting by Yenni Kwok

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