Friday, 18 July 2014

Feeling helpless: that numbing effect

I had a rather disturbed sleep last night and I woke up this morning feeling glum and mighty sad. I've never felt so sad over something about Malaysia before, not even when Malaysia Airlines MH370 disappeared in March this year. Now, almost five months later, another tragedy has befallen the country and Malaysia Airlines.

I read about MH017 before midnight, my eye having been caught on a breaking story on one of the webpages I was visiting. The story was about an airplane crash involving Malaysia Airlines. What, I thought with disbelieve, not another disaster involving our national airlines?

But true enough, the breaking news became a developing news story throughout the night. I was too tired to read the news from the Internet and retired to bed soon afterwards. I awoke at half past two and had a listless sleep after that.

This morning, the first thing I did was to check the news and yes, it was confirmed that MH017 had crashed in eastern Ukraine with no survivors from among the 298 passengers and crew.

The general mood here in Malaysia was one of devastation. Even before the authorities could get to the bottom of MH370, here comes another one. An aeroplane shot down from the sky by a surface-to-air missile. Why did it have to happen?

Okay, so we know that MH017 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and it was flying over Ukraine which is practically in the midst of a civil war with the Russian-backed separatists battling the Ukrainian armed forces.

By right, common sense would have told the airlines to avoid flying across conflict zones, regardless of whether the International Civil Aviation Organisation said it was safe or not.

I've been reading this morning that the corridor through Ukrainian airspace is the shortest distance from Europe to South-east Asia. For a financially distressed airline like Malaysia Airlines, it makes financial sense to use this route if there are savings to the fuel consumption. Many other airlines also fly along this corridor but they have now all stopped after the MH017 crash.

The fact remains that it is not worth taking this risk through Ukraine or any other conflict zones for that matter. Business organisations should not be taking such risks especially when lives are concerned. Here, the blame will surely lie squarely with Malaysia Airlines for not evaluating the risk factor properly when deciding that their aeroplanes can fly across and above conflict zones. And now, Malaysia Airlines are paying dearly for their ineptitude.

With this second international incident involving a Malaysian asset within five months, is it any wonder then that we Malaysians are feeling so numb and devastated today?

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