Thursday, August 21, 2008

Madrid Airport Accident....The Aftermath

In the end the worst fears about the scale of yesterday’s accident have been realized, only 19 of those on board the plane have survived. The serious condition of some of the survivors suggests that the figure of 153 dead may still rise further and official identification of the victims is expected to take several days to complete. The IFEMA convention centre in Madrid has a grisly secondary role as an emergency morgue and reception centre, a role that it first played in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombings. Madrid now has a protocol based on the response to 11-M for dealing with major emergencies like yesterday.

The atmosphere in Madrid is not the same as that of 2004, even though the number of fatalities is not far short of that event. Accidents are not the same as bombings in their impact, even if the result is the same. Also, the train bombings affected many more people and caused a sense of shock in the city that yesterday’s accident has not provoked. Some of the media are being heavily criticised for their reporting, especially those that have published images of the wounded. It is quite common in Spain to see images from these kinds of event that you might not expect to be shown elsewhere, but it seems that some media have gone too far in this case. There are also some criticisms of the parade of politicians who now feel obliged to get in the way of the emergency operations in such cases, lest they be accused of not showing sufficient concern.

According to reports from witnesses, the explosion in one of the engines of the plane still appears to be the cause of the accident and the tremendous fire that followed inside the fuselage. A lot of questions are being asked about a delay to this plane leaving because of a fault that was detected and repaired before it tried to take off. It’s not at all clear whether this fault has any relationship to the cause of the accident. Spanair, the operator of the flight, is going to come under close examination too for its operational methods. The company had to suspend yesterday afternoon a meeting with the trade unions to discuss its plans to sack over 1000 employees in an attempt to cut costs. Questions will also be asked about the age of their fleet, although there is no suggestion at the moment that this has anything to do with the crash.


Erik R. said...

The Spanish media really needs to be reined in with some stronger legislation and some law suits. I've lived in the US and UK and I can't recall ever did I see a dead body on the news. In Spain, there's one every night.

Graeme said...

It's a difficult thing to legislate on, how do you define the limit of what is acceptable? Almost worse than showing the victims of accidents is the harassment of the relatives to try and get the image of someone sobbing on the screen.

John said...

Yes, that is the issue. It is essential that news gets out there, even if it is occasionally intrusive.

However, some of the treatment of this horrendous event was impossible to defend. The image that sticks in my mind is of a grieving family literally running away from the television camera crying and shouting at the pursuing reporters, passionately asking them to leave them alone. And they showed it.

But how do you legislate for it?

Graeme said...

I think after 11-M there was quite a strong reaction here against the showing of very graphic images. There are circumstances though, where you can argue that its perfectly legitimate - war photography is an obvious example. It's the dividing line between portraying the reality of what is happening and exploiting that reality that is so hard to define.