Editorial – Que Sera Sera?

From day one this year, the country has been hit by unceasing disasters, yet whether acts of God or human error, there is a lot that can be done to protect people. Regrettably, there appears to be scant urgency, and much less concern, in learning from disaster lessons.

If military accounts that the Garuda Indonesia plane that burst into flames last Wednesday morning upon landing at Yogyakarta’s airport, killing at least 21 people, was traveling too fast and overshot the runway are true, it signals a deplorable state of affairs for a national aviation sector already reeling from recent disasters such as the Adam Air jet that disappeared off Sulawesi on New Year’s Day with over a hundred on board and, incredibly, still has not been located. Elsewhere there have been near misses, including one last Friday, when a Merpati Nusantara plane had to make an emergency landing on Batam island when the craft sprung a serious oil leak.

How Transport Minister Hatta Rajasa can keep his head up – or his job – is anyone’s guess.

Every pilot knows the approach and landing speed of the aircraft they were rigorously trained for, in this case the staple Boeing 737-400. Such basic, unchanging, data are even available on the internet. This time, weather cannot be blamed for the Garuda accident, because it was a fine, clear morning. So why this craft plunged into a ricefield and became engulfed in an inferno is truly perplexing.

As baffling was the emergency services at Adisutjipto Airport – one of the country’s busiest – and their response to this aircraft engulfed in flames. What appeared to be a sole fire hose with all the strength of a garden sprinkler was no match for the billowing flames.

Just days earlier, meanwhile, some 52 people lost their lives in earthquake-ridden Sumatra, when flimsy buildings collapsed in the magnitude 6.3 temblor that also rattled nearby Singapore. It doesn’t take this page to remind people the we have been here before.

Solely imposing age limits on aircraft, as the government proposes, with a 10-year span, is not enough, as the latest Garuda tragedy proves, as it was a relatively young airliner. Stronger enforcement of safety regulations already in place, in the midst of a seemingly blasé attitude of some operators, is essential. Similarly, as we have suggested before, firm regulations on the sturdy construction of homes and other buildings right across the archipelago, but especially in quake-prone areas, is a must.

Anything else is letting the people down. Again.

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