Malaysia left reeling after second air disaster in five months

Prime minister Najib Razak says perpetrators of Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy ‘must be swiftly brought to justice’

Relatives of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 react at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A total of 44 of the 298 killed in the crash, including the aircraft’s 15 crew members, were Malaysian. Photograph: AP Photo

Relatives of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 react at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A total of 44 of the 298 killed in the crash, including the aircraft’s 15 crew members, were Malaysian. Photograph: AP Photo

Fri, Jul 18, 2014, 21:31

Malaysia was struggling to come to terms yesterday with its second disastrous air crash in five months as authorities in the southeast Asian country demanded a full investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines MH17.

Forty-four of the 298 dead, including the aircraft’s 15 crew members were Malaysian. Prime minister Najib Razak said that while the flight, passengers and crew came from many countries, “today, regardless of nationality, we are all united in grief”.

“This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia . . . no stone will be left unturned. We insist that the perpetrators must be swiftly brought to justice.”

Other passengers from the region included 27 from Australia, 12 from Indonesia, one from Hong Kong, three from the Philippines and one from New Zealand.

Mr Najib said a team of disaster response specialists had been dispatched to Kiev and that authorities in Ukraine had agreed to try and establish “a humanitarian corridor to the crash site”.

Liow Tiong Lai, the country’s transport minister, condemned any attack and called for a full and independent investigation. “This is an outrage against human decency . . . and the Malaysian government calls for those responsible to be brought to justice as swiftly as possible,” he said.

During the news conference, Mr Liow was questioned repeatedly about why the passenger jet was flying over an active war zone, but he said that international aviation authorities had declared the route safe and that many airlines took the same route. He denied that the route was taken to save fuel.

“Fifteen out of 16 airlines use that route, many other countries are using that route over Ukrainian airspace. The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. The International Air Transportation Association said the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions. That’s the reason we are taking this route,” he said.

In a statement, the airline said MH17’s flight plan was approved by Eurocontrol, which is responsible for determining civil aircraft flight paths over European airspace.

Malaysia Airlines had yet to get over the disappearance of flight MH370 on March 8th. Its fate remains a mystery despite a massive search.

Asked how he saw Malaysia Airlines going forward, Mr Liow said that was a question for another time.

Malaysia Airlines’ terrible run is similar in some ways to the plight of Korean Air three decades ago.

In September 1983, Korean Airlines flight KAL 007 was shot down by a Soviet missile, killing all 269 passengers. Five years earlier, Russian jets forced a Korean Air jetliner to crash land, killing two passengers, while in 1987, the North Koreans blew up a Korean Air aircraft over Thailand, killing all 115 passengers and crew.