MELBOURNE, July 18 – As many as 100 of those killed on a Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Ukraine were delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, unconfirmed reports said Friday.
The Australian broadsheet and the Sydney Morning Herald both said that more than one-third of the nearly 300 who died were AIDS researchers, health workers and activists en route to Melbourne.
The Herald said those attending a pre-conference meeting in Sydney were told that around 100 of their colleagues were on the plane that went down, including former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange.
The Australian reported that delegates to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which is due to begin on Sunday, were to be informed that 108 of their colleagues and family members died on MH17.
The International AIDS Society has confirmed that “a number of our colleagues and friends” were killed, but has not said how many.
Asked by reporters whether 108 people attending the conference were on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, International AIDS Society president Francoise Barre-Sinoussi said she was not sure. READ: Missile downed Malaysia Airlines jet over Ukraine, US says.
“We don’t have the confirmation (of numbers),” she said.
“We don’t know how many were on that flight.”
Organisers of the conference in Melbourne said it would go ahead regardless.
“The decision to go on, we were thinking about them because we know it’s really what they would have liked us to do,” said Barre-Sinoussi.