Cuba in mourning after worst plane crash in nearly 30 years

Relatives of victims of the Boeing 737 plane that crashed after taking off from Havana’s main airport yesterday, arrive to a hotel in Havana, Cuba, May 19, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 19 May 2018

Cuba in mourning after worst plane crash in nearly 30 years

HAVANA: Flags flew at half-mast in Cuba on Saturday marking the start of two days of national mourning while authorities worked to identify the corpses of more than 100 people who died in the crash of a Boeing 737 shortly after takeoff from Havana.
Distressed relatives of victims of Friday’s crash, most of whom are Cuban, cried and hugged one another outside the morgue, where they gave information on their loved ones to authorities to help the process of identification.
Three women survived the crash, the worst in Cuba in nearly 30 years, but they were in a critical condition, suffering burns and other trauma, the director of the hospital in Havana where they were being treated said on Saturday.
The nearly 40-year old plane had been carrying 105 passengers plus crew members on a midday domestic flight to Holguin in eastern Cuba, Cuban state-run media said. Two Argentine citizens and an unspecified number of Mexicans were among the dead, the Argentine and Mexican governments said.
Cuban investigators were working around the clock at the site of the crash, an agricultural area some 20 km (12 miles) south of Havana, sifting through the burned wreckage for evidence, Cuban officials said.
“This is a very unexpected death, she didn’t deserve it, my grandmother was a strong person,” said Cuban 18-year old student Katherine Lucia Martinez, bursting into tears and clinging to her father.
Her 60-year old grandmother was among the dead, and she was waiting with other relatives of the deceased at a Havana hotel for an update from the authorities.
President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Saturday visited the morgue where the victims are being identified. The crash is the first big test of his presidency after taking over office from Raul Castro just last month.
On Friday he also visited the site of the crash.
Cuban specialists have recovered one of the plane’s black boxes in “good conditions,” the transport minister Adel Yzquierdo told Cuban state TV on Saturday.
Some locals said they saw the plane on fire before it hit the ground.
“The plane was on fire, it flipped and then nosedived,” said Marino Perez Alvaredo, a farmer.
The Mexican transport department said on its website, “During take-off (the plane) apparently suffered a problem and dived to the ground.”
The Boeing 737-201 aircraft was built in 1979 and leased by Cuban airline Cubana from a small Mexican company called Damojh, according to the Mexican government.
Damojh in Mexico said it did not immediately have any more information. Cubana declined to comment.
Mexico said it would send a team of investigators from its Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics on Saturday. Most aircraft accidents take months to investigate.
The crash was the worst since a Soviet-made Ilyushin-62M passenger plane crashed near Havana in 1989 killing all 126 people on board.


Indonesia’s Indrawati to stay on as finance minister

Updated 24 min 5 sec ago

Indonesia’s Indrawati to stay on as finance minister

  • Widodo has since Monday tapped more than a dozen candidates for ministerial posts
  • Indrawati, a former managing director of the World Bank, has been finance minister in Southeast Asia’s largest economy since 2016

JAKARTA: Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said on Tuesday she had been asked by President Joko Widodo to stay on in her post as his new cabinet takes shape for a second five-year term in office.

Widodo has since Monday tapped more than a dozen candidates for ministerial posts, including his presidential election rival Prabowo Subianto, who looks set to be defense minister.

The candidates — all wearing white shirts — have come to the presidential palace to be interviewed by Widodo, with most declining to confirm the positions offered ahead of an official announcement expected on Wednesday.

After meeting Widodo, Indrawati said she had agreed to stay on as finance minister and to ensure policies supported the president’s priorities such as improving human resources, creating jobs and executing government budgets well.

“Indonesia I think is facing a very dynamic and uncertain global economy and an economic slowdown that is pressuring the whole world,” Indrawati said.

“Therefore, a continued policy is needed in order to be able to guard our economy from the challenge of this global slowdown,” she said, noting she also discussed ways to narrow Indonesia’s current account and trade deficits.

Indrawati, a former managing director of the World Bank, has been finance minister in Southeast Asia’s largest economy since 2016, spearheading tax reform efforts, seeking to capitalize on a tax amnesty program in 2016-2017. She is now one of the longest serving finance ministers in Indonesia, having also held the post in the previous administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

“Sri Mulyani is seen as a key architect behind the fiscal discipline in recent years and many wish for her continued leadership in driving deeper fiscal reforms,” Bank of America wrote in a note.

The make-up of the cabinet is being closely watched to see how many technocrats — who are more likely to fall in with Widodo’s plans for boosting growth and investment — were included.

Other ministerial candidates who came to the palace on Tuesday included Basuki Hadimuljono, who is credited with driving infrastructure projects as public works minister in Widodo’s first term, and Siti Nurbaya Bakar, environment minister in the first term.

On Monday, Nadiem Makarim, the chief executive of tech startup Gojek and media tycoon Erick Thohir, a former chairman of Italian soccer club Inter Milan, were among those confirming they had been asked to join the cabinet.

Speaking to media ahead of his inauguration on Sunday, Widodo said around 16 ministers in the new cabinet would come from political parties out of an anticipated 34 posts.