Pakistan’s Lethal Monsoon
If you have ever flown into Islamabad airport in the middle of the monsoon the final minutes before those wheels hit the runway are agonizing. You’re lucky if you see the ground until seconds before you land, let alone the surrounding Margalla Hills (the foothills of the Himalayas). Unfortunately for the Air Blue flight from Karachi the wheels never hit the ground– the worst aviation disaster on Pakistani soil was a horrific accident and a tragedy for the victim’s loved ones, and the entire nation.
As more information comes to light in the wake of the ill-fated Air Blue flight’s black box having been found, the 152 victims’ family grieve; the newly joined families of a couple on their honeymoon; the proud brother of a young man returning home from a job interview; and the colleagues of a group of young parliamentarians who represented the best of Pakistan’s next generation. What went wrong? Once the investigation is underway we’ll know more, until then it could have been one or a combination of the following: bad weather, human error and/or a technical fault.
The anguish of the families was intensified by what has been seen in Pakistan as ‘irresponsible’ coverage by many media outlets that were spewing out information without any verification or caveats. This caused much confusion for relatives in the minutes and hours that followed the tragedy and there has been widespread criticism over how certain Pakistani media outlets covered the event and the lack of information from official channels. There has subsequently been a call for more guidelines over coverage of these kinds of accidents.
Airblue’s crash on July 28 was tragedy enough but the stream of unchecked information and unguarded comments over television channels made it worse, especially for the families of the 152 victims. Desperate relatives rushed to hospitals after learning from the channels that some passengers of the ill-fated Flight ED-202 had survived and were being brought to hospitals. They vacillated between hope and despair there for hours and returned home more distressed as none had.
…the scenes of out-of-breath reporters gloating they were the ‘first’ to report from the site of the crash were also unnecessary. As were the camera shots that zoomed in on body bags swollen with the remains of the passengers. The microphones thrust in the faces of numb family members was a master-class in ghoulish voyeurism. Yet, it went beyond just the tasteless. The early reports that there were survivors were irresponsible and possibly failed the basic test of ethical journalism. (Only an investigation will determine the facts, but there is some suspicion that some channels pre-empted the interior minister’s announcement of ‘survivors’.)
In a time of tragedy, there are always opportunists, and much like the earthquake in 2005 in the northern areas of Pakistan, there were people (reportedly some volunteers at the crash site) who out of greed or desperation stole human body parts for jewellery as well as mobile phones.
The monsoon, which is often greatly desired to cool the scorching plains of Pakistan in the summer, has also caused flash floods which have claimed the lives of over 800 people and affected 400,000 more in three of the four provinces in Pakistan.
One can only hope that the lethal monsoon has wreaked all the damage it can.
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