Malaysia: 'We're not ready to accept this so soon after MH370 tragedy'

Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine stuns country still searching for answers to and wreckage of disappeared flight MH370

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News of the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine has been greeted with not just horror but disbelief in Malaysia, where distress at the loss was amplified by the sheer incredulity of facing a second air disaster in five months.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, carrying 239 people, vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March. It has yet to be found despite a huge international search, which is still going on.

The crash of flight MH17 on Thursday had immediate and chilling echoes.

"I am shocked by reports that an MH plane crashed. We are launching an immediate investigation," Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, said on Twitter.

The defence minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, urged people to keep calm, saying in a message that there was no confirmation the flight had been shot down.

The opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, said: "MH17 – ya Allah – another tragedy. Awaiting details. Pray for safety."

Nothing encapsulated the shock and heartbreak of the news more than the tweet from 18-year-old Malaysian Maira Elizabeth Nari, whose father, Andrew, was chief steward on MH370: "I am hoping it is not true. My God, save Your children. #PrayForMH17."

With confirmation trickling through, she added about an hour later: "As the family member of the crew MH370, and on behalf of all them, we pray for MH17. Stay strong dear families."

Another message that she retweeted – from Malaysia's badminton world champion, Lee Chong Wei – expressed the bewilderment so many felt: "I don't think we are ready to accept this so soon after the #MH370 tragedy."

The airline has said that it believes flight MH370 crashed into the Southern Indian Ocean with the loss of all lives, but many relatives refuse to accept that conclusion until wreckage is found.

So far, a massive and unprecedented international search across vast swaths of land and sea has failed to turn up any physical trace of the Boeing-777. Crews are continuing the hunt, but the search zone has shifted to an area roughly 1,120 miles (1,800km) off Australia's west coast, where specialist equipment is being used to map the ocean floor, in places as much as 4.5 miles deep.

Investigators believe the flight was deliberately diverted around 40 minutes after take-off from Kuala Lumpur on 8 March, and that its transponder system had been switched off. It is unknown whether the abrupt change of direction back over the Malaysian peninsula was an emergency measure by pilots as they battled an unknown technical problem, or due to a malicious act by someone on board.

What is certain is that it flew on for hours after all radar contact was lost, on a course towards the Southern Indian Ocean.

Malaysia Airlines had a strong safety record prior to MH370's disappearance, although questions have been raised over whether it reacted quickly enough when Vietnamese air traffic controllers warned that the plane had not entered their airspace as scheduled.

More than two-thirds of those on board MH370 were Chinese nationals. Relatives of many of the missing have criticised Malaysia and the airline for its handling of the case.

On Thursdaytheir thoughts were of the other lost passengers and the anguish those families must be going through.

Posting in Chinese on a collective social media account, they wrote: "Can't stop crying, praying for MH17. Who would do such a poisonous thing to a civil aircraft? Passengers on board are the same, ordinary people like our relatives. Why let them experience torture?! Why let other people feel the same pain as we do?!"


Tania Branigan in Beijing

The GuardianTramp

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