SHAKHTARSK, Ukraine — Panicky residents in an eastern Ukrainian town fled their homes Monday carrying a few possessions in plastic bags and small suitcases as shells exploded in the distance, fighting that also prevented an international police team from reaching the area where the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed.

Associated Press reporters saw a high-rise apartment block in the town being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

The fighting there and elsewhere in the area kept Dutch and Australian police for the second day from reaching the site where the plane crashed after being shot from the sky. They had planned to begin searching for remaining bodies and gathering forensic evidence and the delay strained tempers among international observers.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said “We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire.”