Tearful relatives of Indonesia jet crash victims demand answers

Relatives weep during the funeral of a victim of a Lion Air plane crash, in Sidoarjo, East Java, Indonesia. (AP)
Updated 05 November 2018
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Tearful relatives of Indonesia jet crash victims demand answers

  • At a news conference charged with emotion, relatives addressed questions to Indonesian officials
  • As of Monday, 138 body bags containing human remains had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified

JAKARTA: Relatives of the victims of an Indonesian jet that crashed into the sea off Jakarta this week killing all 189 on board demanded answers on Monday as to why the plane had been passed fit to fly and called for no let up in the search for loved ones.
Indonesian authorities on Sunday extended by three days the search for victims and a second black box recorder from wreckage of a nearly new Boeing Co. 737 MAX that slammed into the sea a week ago only minutes after it took off from Jakarta.
At a news conference charged with emotion, relatives addressed questions to Indonesian officials including transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi and the head of the country’s transportation safety committee (KNKT).
“We are the victims here. Imagine if you were in our position,” said Najib Fuquoni, a relative of a victim, demanding an independent investigation into the crash.
Muhammad Bambang Sukandar, the father of another victim, said Lion Air technicians needed to take “full responsibility” if it was proved they had not properly attended to technical issues following the jet’s previous flight from Bali to Jakarta.
“This is not an unimportant thing. These are people’s lives,” he said, as he sought to choke back tears.
“Don’t let something like this keep happening in Indonesia,” he added. Indonesia is one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets, but its safety record has been patchy. Its transport safety panel investigated 137 serious aviation incidents from 2012 to 2017.
At one stage during Monday’s news conference, relatives urged Lion Air founder Rusdi Kirana, who was in the audience, to stand up. He stood up, but did not comment and clasped his hands together as if seeking forgiveness.
The privately owned budget carrier was founded in 1999. Its aircraft have been involved in at least 15 safety incidents and it has been placed under tougher international safety restrictions than other Indonesian airlines.
While victims’ relatives are desperate to know what happened, the first crash of a Boeing 737 MAX is also the focus of scrutiny by the global aviation industry.
“As an initial step we conducted ramp checks for 11 Boeing 737 Max 8,” said transport minister Sumadi, adding that authorities were also conducting a special audit to include operating procedures and crew qualifications.
The search effort has involved 151 divers, five helicopters, 61 ships, ranging from fishing boats to ships with advanced sonar scanners, as well as underwater drones.
An Indonesian rescue diver died during the search for a second black box, parts of the plane, and human remains on the muddy seabed.
The head of KNKT Surjanto Tjahjono has said 69 hours of recorded data from 19 flights, including the one that crashed, had been downloaded successfully from a partly damaged flight data recorder recovered on Thursday.
As of Monday, 138 body bags containing human remains had been recovered and handed to police for forensic identification, yet only 14 victims had been identified.
Among the larger parts of the plane found have been a mangled engine and a damaged aircraft wheel.
Tjahjono said based on initial analysis the “engine was running with fairly high speed” when it hit the water. While there were no signs of an explosion in the air, the plane appeared to have hit the water with huge force, he said. “When the plane hit the water, the energy released was extraordinarily large.”


Rohingya Muslim group fleeing India to Bangladesh stuck on ‘zero line’

Updated 22 min 27 sec ago
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Rohingya Muslim group fleeing India to Bangladesh stuck on ‘zero line’

  • The stranded Rohingya, including women and children, had been living in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir
  • Many hundreds of thousands of members of mostly Buddhist Myanmar’s Rohingya community have left their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine Sate

DHAKA: Bangladesh has denied entry to 31 Rohingya Muslims trying to enter from India and they are stuck in no-man’s land on the border, Bangladesh authorities said on Monday, as India cracks down on members of the community.
The stranded Rohingya, including women and children, had been living in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, according to a Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) official who said he had seen some of their identity cards issued by the UN refugee agency in India.
The 31 had been stuck on Bangladesh’s border with northeast India since Friday, said the BGB commander in the area, Golam Kabir.
“We stopped them as they were crossing the border,” Kabir told Reuters by telephone.
“They’ve been on the zero line since the 18th of this month,” he said, referring to the border.
Two rounds of talks on what to do with the 31, with India’s Border Security Force on Sunday, had “ended without any conclusive decision,” Kabir said.
Many hundreds of thousands of members of mostly Buddhist Myanmar’s Rohingya community have left their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine Sate over the decades, most fleeing military crackdowns and discrimination.
Many have sought shelter in Bangladesh — where nearly 1 million live — but others have ended up in India, Southeast Asia and beyond.
An Indian border force officer in Tripura state told reporters on Sunday that they were providing food and clothing to the Rohingya, 16 of whom were children.
The force could not be reached for comment on Monday.
India estimates that 40,000 Rohingya are living in scattered settlements in various parts of the country.
But its Hindu nationalist government regards them as illegal aliens and a security threat, and has ordered that they be identified and repatriated.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has issued about 16,500 Rohingya in India with identity cards that it says can help “prevent harassment, arbitrary arrests, detention and deportation.” India does not recognize the cards.
Hundreds of Rohingya families have left India for Bangladesh since seven Rohingya men were deported to Myanmar in October. This month, India sent a Rohingya family of five to Myanmar.
The United Nations says conditions are not conducive for Rohingya to return to Myanmar.
In August, the United Nations accused the Myanmar military of mass killings and rapes of Rohingya with “genocidal intent” in a 2017 military operation that drove more than 700,000 of them into Bangladesh, according to UN agencies.
Myanmar has denied the accusations, saying its military launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Muslim terrorists.