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After tragedy strikes

April 21, 2012


Family members of a passenger killed in a plane crash, wait for transportation at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan.—AP Photo

Today, the entire country is grieving for the loss of countless precious lives, which became victims of the Bhoja Air crash tragedy on the evening of April 20, 2012. The faces of grieving family members and their sheer helplessness make us all question if this tragedy could have been prevented? If we could be of assistance and support? And most importantly if the shattered family members will ever return to normal lives?

Whilst looking for answers to the most apparent questions, it is also extremely important to understand the problems that the victims’ families face during such incidents. It is essential to stay abreast with the issues and address them appropriately.

It can be said that preventing or pre-empting a disaster is very difficult; however provisions and facilitation to console and comfort the families of the victims can be made possible. The government, aviation authorities and private airline companies should learn lessons from pervious disasters and pacify the families as much as possible.

Qaiser Imtiaz, a journalist with Express Tribune, who lost his brother in Airblue’s crash said, “the issue which affects all the families equally, regardless of their economic and social class, is the lack of information. The so-called information cells which are created right after the crashes or any other disaster divulge no information regarding the victims.”

“If they think pasting passengers’ list on the wall can placate the families, then it’s high time that the authorities should wake up,” he added.

According to Imtiaz, Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims) which has the reputation of being one of the largest hospitals in South Asia does not accommodate and facilitate the patients.

“The families of victims, which are already so traumatised, are made to stand and wait for hours. I remember they did not even let us enter the hospital and provided no facilities whatsoever. In fact Pims does not even have a proper cold storage room for storing the bodies,” added Imtiaz who still has not recovered his brother’s body.

However, learning from the Airblue tragedy, this time around the local authorities hired a cold storage as the PIMS mortuary was expected to run out of space.

The most important aspect of such incidents, which most of us tend to overlook, is the post-traumatic shock syndrome. Many a times, members of the immediate family are unable to grieve or are in a state of shock which is why counselling is enormously important.

Sohail Anwar, a supervisor at a private gym, who lost his brother to the Airblue tragedy said, “The government agents and various ministers who try to stay in the limelight by showing off in front of the cameras should instead arrange for psychiatric assistance for the families.”

According to Imtiaz appropriate crisis management cells should be established to facilitate the victims of the families which are affected by any such disaster.

Compensatory payment, which appears to be secondary when a loved one is lying in a grave, however, later becomes important, especially for people whose sole bread-earners die in such tragedies.

“I must tell you that the government, Airblue and Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) promised us compensatory money, however, many amongst us still has not received a dime,” said Imtiaz.

Anwar, whose views concur with that of Imtiaz said, “various officials from CAA, responsible for interim payment and compensation, are mostly unavailable. Since 2010’s tragedy, we have not been able to get hold of them.”

Issuance of succession certificate, which establishes the heir or next of kin of the victims, became a huge issue after 2010’s crash.

“I know of a lawyer who took Rs. 40,000 from a friend just to issue a succession certificate. Moreover, there have been reported incidents of the authorities not accepting the succession certificate at all,” said Imtiaz.

“Nothing will bring my 22-year-old brother back but we all want justice and we want our skies to become safer so that other people do not have to undergo the same pain and suffering,” added Anwar.

Having said that, it is also important for the victims’ families to act and think rationally. Considering all the injustices, demanding support by vandalising public property, generally adds fuel to the already ignited fire.

“In retrospect, I think we all should have stayed calmer and let the authorities help us out. Emotions are generally so high at such times that it gets very difficult to think rationally and stay put which is why we all believe that counselling can play a vital role,” added Anwar.

Moreover, it is important to understand that sites of disasters are not a source of entertainment. Many people unintentionally direct their steps toward the site which hampers the rescue process.

“I do not understand why people start pouring in from different parts of the city whenever there is an accident. If you cannot be of assistance then stay home or wherever you are,” added Anwar.

Most of the families are not satisfied with the investigation report of the Airblue tragedy. According to them it is essential to identify the loopholes and reprimand the culprits to save the lives of the passengers.

“If we will not learn lessons from our past and will only look for scapegoats then how are our skies going to become safer? It is high time that we own up to our mistakes and work collaboratively to rectify them otherwise these tragedies will never stop,” said Anwar.

It is wise to say that the loss of a loved one is irreplaceable. It is impossible to fill the void left by the deceased people; however, appropriate support and assistance can be invaluable during trying times. Lack of information, facilitation and mismanagement ignite people’s fury. Staying united and helping those in need is the only way to curb the sense of deprivation and despair that the families undergo.