With the news of the terrible plane crash in Mangalore, we have gotten lots of calls, and I just wanted to say that we are fine. Mangalore is not Bangalore, although it is in the same state of Karnataka. It is along the coast, with Goa to the North and Kerala to the south, so the list of fatalities reads like the rainbow that South India is -- Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. Wedding season is starting, so lots of folks who work in the Gulf come back for family events, certainly laden with lots of gold and electronics.
Watching the live coverage this morning (my visiting mother-in-law mentioned it to me as soon as I woke up, and she was watching it non-stop, a change from watching her religious channel) reminded me of some of the challenges that India faces when confronting a disaster. First of all, there are people everywhere. That might help in rescuing survivors when there is no other other emergency response, but it is awfully dangerous to have normal folks within a few feet of a burning aircraft. This is a result of there not being a clear emergency response protocol, and no one being in charge. This is seen over and over, certainly everywhere in the world, but few places carry it off with the aplomb that is seen here. The emergency vehicles that appear, eventually, are rather sad looking. Then, of course, the different politicians are blaming each other, and the foreign pilot brings out the xenophobic worst of the Indians. Seems to me that more investigation into the process by which this airport just got certified for international flights might be worthwhile -- as one can see the cutting of corners everywhere as folks rush to keep up with demand for transportation, housing, education, and many of the other things that go along with economic development.
By tonight things are still tragic, but the State has gotten its act together a bit. As this is a story that is making the front page of newspapers worldwide, there are floodlights under which emergency workers are retrieving bodies. Finally the public's access has been limited, with the space cordoned off. There have been press conferences by different folks involved every once in a while, and emergency numbers are flashing on all channels (okay, well not the cricket channels, the movie channels in all languages, the shopping channels, the religious channels, nor the cartoon channels -- but there are still lots and lots of others). Eventually the authorities will hear more details about what really happened, and hopefully the public will learn about them too.