The United Nations (UN) flag is flying at half-mast worldwide as the organisation and its agencies mourn the death of 40 staff members in Sunday’s tragic Ethiopian Airline crash. Some of the agencies including the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) are also flying their respective flags at half-mast along with that of the UN.
The victims include Ambassador Abiodun Oluremi Bashua from Nigeria who was on contract with the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and 19 staff of the UN Department for Safety and Security. Others are 7 staff of the World Food Programme (WFP) and two staff each of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The rest include 6 workers of the UN Office in Nairobi and one staff each of the IOM, World Bank and the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UN-SOM).
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres in his condolence message says he is “deeply saddened at the tragic loss of lives”. The UN Chief who has placed phone calls to heads of the UN agencies affected by the tragedy has conveyed his “heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the Government and people of Ethiopia”.
A total of 157 people including crew members died in the air crash on the eve of the UN Environment Assembly which opened in Nairobi on Monday amidst tears from the delegates. Heads of State and Government, environment ministers and thousands of other delegates are participating in the five-day meeting in the Kenyan capital.
The Assembly observed a one minute silence for victims of the crash at the opening session. The UN Chief who also addressed the opening ceremony of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW63) in New York this Monday also led delegates from around the world to observe a moment of silence for the victims.
Ethiopia has also declared a day of national mourning with the country’s flag flying at half-mast to honour the air crash victims, nine of who were its nationals. The United States Embassy in Addis Ababa is also flying the American flag at half mast. In a tweet, the Embassy says “Today we join all Ethiopians in their national day of mourning over the loss of life in yesterday’s tragic accident involving Ethiopian Airlines flight 302. We stand with the Ethiopian people and have offered our support to Ethiopian Airlines and the Ethiopian government”.
It could not however be confirmed as at the time of this report whether Kenya that had the highest number of casualties on the ill-fated flight has also declared a national day of mourning. It is also not clear whether the Kenyan flag has been flying at half-mast.
The Ethiopian Airline Boeing 737 crashed on Sunday morning barely minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa enroute Nairobi. The wreckage of the plane was later found near the town of Bishoftu about 62 kilometres south-east of the Ethiopian capital. The pilot of the plane is said to have reported a technical problem before losing contact with the control tower. The black box of the plane has been found.
Ethiopia has grounded all its Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft following the disaster which is the second crash in five months for this model manufactured in the United States. The Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft belonging to Lion Air had also crashed in Jakarta in October last year killing all the 189 people on board. Indonesia and China are the two other countries that have so far grounded all Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft in the fleet of the airlines operating from their territories after the Ethiopia Airline crash.