GRABOVO, Ukraine, July 17 (Reuters) - Dozens of bodies were scattered around the smoldering wreckage of a passenger jet that crashed in a field in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, a Reuters reporter said.
An emergency services rescue worker said at least 100 bodies had so far been found at the scene, near the village of Grabovo, and that debris from the wreckage was spread across an area up to about 15 km (nine miles) in diameter.
Broken pieces of the wings were marked with blue and red paint - the same colors as the emblem of the Malaysian airline which lost track of a Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur that was carrying almost 300 people.
"I was working in the field on my tractor when I heard the sound of a plane and then a bang and shots. Then I saw the plane hit the ground and break in two. There was thick black smoke," said a witness, who gave his name only as Vladimir.
A separatist rebel from nearby Krasnyi Luch who gave his name only as Sergei said: "From my balcony I saw a plane begin to descend from a great height and then heard two explosions.
He denied the rebels had shot the plane down.
"This could happen only if it was a fighter jet or a surface-to-air missile (that shot it down)," he told Reuters, saying the rebels did not have weapons capable of shooting shoot down a plane at such a height.
All 298 people aboard the plane were killed, a Ukrainian interior ministry official said, blaming "terrorists" using a ground-to-air missile.
Ukraine's prime minister called the downing of the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur a "catastrophe". (Reporting by Anton Zverev; Writing by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)
UPDATE: 9:00 p.m. ET -- The number of people aboard the Malaysian Airlines plane that crashed over Ukraine has been updated to reflect the latest information from Malaysia Airlines.