It’s been an awful year from Malaysia Airlines. Following the baffling disappearance of MH370, we now begin to piece together the fate of the airline’s second tragedy of the year – MH17. Although several days on, information is still vague and often inaccurate, so what do we actually know about the horrific incident?
Flight MH17 took off from Schiphol Airport on Thursday and was headed towards Kuala Lumpur with 298 people on board. US officials say that whilst the plane flew over the Donetsk area of Ukraine, it was likely struck by a surface to air missile. Donetsk is rife with conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainians, and only last month was a Ukrainian military aircraft shot out of the sky with a missile in a chillingly similar incident. All 49 of those on board the military aircraft died in the plane was shot down.
We do know that MH17 did not send out a distress signal, although the black boxes onboard the flight are only just being analysed. Barack Obama spoke at a press conference regarding the incident and said there was credible evidence to suggest that the alleged missile was fired from within a location known to be occupied with pro-Russian rebels. So, did the Russians mean to shoot down a completely innocent commercial airliner?
…only last month was a Ukrainian military aircraft shot out of the sky with a missile…
Although unverified, the Security Service of Ukraine has released a transcript of a recorded conversation between pro-Russian militants. In the transcript, one man says to another, ‘Well, we are 100% sure that it was a civilian plane.’ The other man asks if there are weapons onboard the plane, to which the first man replies, ‘Nothing at all. Civilian belongings, medical scraps, towels, toilet paper.’ In another conversation, Cossack commander Nikolay Kozitsin says, regarding the plane, ‘That means they were carrying spies. They shouldn’t have been fucking flying. There is a war going on.”
In addition to the overwhelming evidence as to who is to blame for the attack, rebels Tweeted just after the incident that they had successfully shot down a Ukrainian military aircraft – although these Tweets were deleted shortly after.
…”Well, we’re 100% sure that it was a civilian plane”…
As for those who lost their lives on the flight, the indignity continues. After much hostility between rebels guarding the crash site and officials attempting to gain access, many bodies have now been loaded onto refrigerated trains to be taken to the morgue. Families of the flight’s passengers around the world still wait, hanging in the balance to hear where their loved ones are being taken, having spent three days laying amongst the devastation. With around 80 children killed in the attack, the operation to try and recover the bodies has been described by the relatives of the dead as degrading and inhumane. The plane was carrying people from Australia, Malaysia, Britain, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Netherlands.
So, was it initially deemed safe for MH17 to fly over the area in which the plane was shot down? According to Malaysia Airline’s senior vice-president, it was, with the area declared safe by authorities. Although there is a no fly zone in the area up to 32,000 feet, MH17 was flying at 33,000 feet, which is allowed. It was by no means the only plane flying over the area, as according to FlightRadar 24, as four other airlines regularly fly their planes over Donetsk.
At the moment, Dutch experts are due to examine the bodies of the deceased, whilst a team of Malaysian officials are conducting a full enquiry into the horrific attack. The rest of the world must now wait with baited breath to see what action will follow such a devastating act of terror.