Inside Malaysia Airlines as tragedy strikes again

2014-07-18 14:08
Liow Tiong Lai addresses the media at a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. (Nicolas Asfouri, AFP)

Liow Tiong Lai addresses the media at a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang. (Nicolas Asfouri, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Kuala Lumpur - It started with another late-night phone call, another rush to the airport, where familiar faces in a familiar setting tried to make sense of nearly 300 more lives lost in the second disaster to strike Malaysia Airlines in the space of just a few months.

For a company and a nation still struggling to come to terms with the unsolved disappearance of Flight MH370 on 8 March, Thursday's apparent shooting down of another Boeing 777 over eastern Ukraine was a devastating blow.

"For something like this to happen, just four months after MH370, just when we were beginning to get on with life, it is just very difficult to take," one airline executive told Reuters at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, sobbing as he spoke.

"You can't imagine how draining it is, how emotional it is. Everyone can't believe this is happening again, we are going through all of the emotions once again."

Officials prepared and focused

After the earlier tragedy, politicians and airline officials were slow to acknowledge the plane had gone missing en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing and then gave confusing, sometimes contradictory statements.

On Thursday, the news began to filter in just after 23:00 local time that something had gone wrong with Flight MH17 scheduled from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. Soon after, Malaysian Airline System Bhd executives were awakened and dispatched to the airport to help set up emergency operations, according to interviews with company officials.

"When we entered the room, we looked around and saw the same colleagues, the same familiar faces, that we saw during MH370," said one government official. "And almost everyone was sighing. Gosh, we could not believe that something like this was happening once again."

By 23:00, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) officials knew from television footage and then confirmation from Ukraine authorities that the plane had gone down. The airline announced on its official Twitter feed that it had lost contact with the aircraft - a change from the March disaster when it was roundly criticised for waiting six hours before acknowledging MH370 was missing.

Before midnight, the officials realised that the 298 passengers and crew were most likely dead.

"People knew the drill this time around - everyone was focused on what they had to do," the government official said. "MAS, the government, the different agencies, the politicians. Everyone had a role and they knew what it was."

Pre dawn call

This time, the decision was made early that there would be only one spokesperson - Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, who was had only been appointed late last month.

Before dawn, Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke with US President Barack Obama and issued a detailed statement spelling out what had happened and vowing swift justice for the perpetrators.

"We were better prepared for this, we got the statements out fast and verified everything quickly," a second government official said.

Oliver McGee, a former senior US Transportation Department official, said it was unprecedented for a commercial airline to suffer two tragedies in such rapid succession with more than 530 people dead.

"Malaysia Airlines is now in the fog of the greatest crisis in international aviation safety and security history," McGee said. "I don't see how Malaysia is going to recover from this as a firm."

Defence Minister and former Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the public face of the government during the MH370 crisis, tweeted early on Friday morning that he was asking the military to confirm reports that the aircraft had been shot down.

"MH17: If indeed our plane was brought down, those responsible WILL be brought to justice!" he wrote. 

Read more on:    malaysia airlines  |  ukraine  |  malaysia  |  mh17  |  air crashes
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

New GIF keyboard on iOS for added fun!

Soon sending an LOL! or facepalm will be so much more fun!

 
 

For chic geeks...

Puppy goes crazy over iPad game
Printable solar panels will bring exciting new opportunities!
Now there’s a special lane for texting while walking
LOL! 7 brutally honest texts from parents

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is a tendency to fight against the current today but this will just use up a lot of energy and not get you very far. You...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.