According to experts, a plane crash on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia symbolizes the country’s deteriorating aviation safety record and the greater problem of population decline in its huge Far East, despite its rich mineral resources.

All 22 passengers and 6 crew members of the An-28 plane, including two children, crashed over the sea of ​​Okhotsk in the northwestern Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia’s Pacific Peninsula on a cloudy Tuesday. in the afternoon.

Most of the bodies have been salvaged from the cold waters.

The Ministry of Emergency Affairs stated that rescuers continued to search for wreckage and aircraft flight recorders in an area of ​​approximately 20 square kilometers (approximately 8 square miles).

There is no official conclusion about the cause of the crash on Tuesday, but Russian prosecutors said that possible causes may include pilot errors, bad weather or technical failure.

Experts told Al Jazeera that this incident showed that the aircraft operated by Russian small airlines had a bigger problem, and they needed better equipment, such as an instrument landing system, to ensure flight accuracy.

The updated equipment will increase the availability of each airport in severe weather-this is known as the “weather minimum” in the aviation industry.

Oleg Panteleyev, an expert at the Infomost consulting agency in Moscow, told Al Jazeera: “This will give you the opportunity to increase the minimum weather when you can take off and land safely.”

Russia is also one of the countries with the worst safety record in the world.

According to a 2018 report by the Interstate Aviation Committee, the committee is responsible for overseeing the aviation safety standards of post-Soviet countries. Pilots’ mistakes caused 75% of plane crashes and other accidents in Russia and other former Soviet countries.

Some of the most deadly recent crashes in Russia include December 2016 tragedy, A military plane crashed into the Black Sea after taking off from Sochi International Airport, killing 92 people, including 64 members of the army choir who were going to Syria to perform for the Russian army.

In November 2013, a Boeing 737 owned by the Russian Tatarstan company crashed in Kazan in the Volga region, killing 50 passengers and crew.

In April 2010, all 96 people on a Tupolev 154 Polish Air Force plane carrying the Polish President and senior Polish officials crashed near the western Russian city of Smolensk.

Mikhail Barabanov, an analyst at the Moscow Think Tank Center for Strategic and Technical Analysis, said in a Facebook post in 2019: “Every year there is a dead body crash. An Aeroflot in Moscow The SSJ-100 aircraft killed 41 people.

A dying area

In Kamchatka, airplanes are the only reliable way to travel in the area, which is a peninsula the size of the United Kingdom with a population of only 320,000.

Kamchatka’s mountainous terrain, numerous rivers and Siberian climate make the construction of asphalt roads impossible.

“There are no roads and no land [transport] Infrastructures like this are only the least in coastal areas,” Roman Gusarov, an aviation safety expert in Moscow, told Al Jazeera.

“That’s why they operate small regional jets, mainly equipped with turboprop engines, that can land at small airports with airstrips,” he said.

These airlines are vital to Russia, which is the country with the largest land area in the world, where the permafrost and long distances make roads unreliable and impassable.

The Kamchatka Peninsula embodies these typical Russian conditions—and the reason why the eastern part of this country of 143 million people is facing catastrophic population decline.

Natalia Sushko, a native of Kamchatka, said that “in principle, there are no roads” in the northern part of the peninsula.

She was born in the southern part of the peninsula 62 years ago, but left it in 2013 to go to a place called “Mainland” in the Russian mainland.

“The Kamchatka Peninsula is unimaginably beautiful, but nothing more. Summer lasts for two or three months, but the rest of the year is rain, humidity, cold, wind and snowstorms,” ​​said Su, who now lives on the outskirts of Moscow. Shiko said.

Her departure was part of a large-scale exile on the Kamchatka Peninsula and other parts of the Russian Far East. The Far East is a large area of ​​Northeast Asia that borders Alaska, China, North Korea, and Japan and occupies two-fifths of Russian territory.

This is a little more than Australia as a whole, but the population of this area is only 8.2 million. This is a decrease of 20% compared to before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Demographers predict that despite promises of free land and other benefits, people are still leaving the area in droves, and by 2050 there may be fewer than 4 million people living there.

Various aircraft and helicopters played a key role in the Soviet Union’s efforts to develop resource-rich regions.

Communist Moscow has developed an aviation network that can transport people, food, medicine, medical equipment and even hay.

Vitaly Serkovnikov, head of the Moscow-based flight safety consulting agency, told Al Jazeera: “We used to transport hay to the far north so that the children can drink milk.”

He said that because of the months-long Arctic night, the hay-eating cows went blind, but their milk is still good for the children.

Official response

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed condolences to the families of the victims, and the regional governor promised economic compensation of up to US$5,000.

“We will do everything we can to help [you] Survived this tragedy,” Vladimir Solodov told the families of the victims in the town of Parana.

However, some locals believe that the tragedy can be avoided-because a similar plane crashed on the same rock nine years ago.

In 2012, another An-28 carrying 14 people collided with the Pyatibratka (five brothers) rock. Only four passengers survived, and a wooden Orthodox cross with the name of the deceased marked the location of the collision.

The locals promised to blow up rocks or change the route of the plane landing in Parana. According to local Kamchatka information publications, aviation officials support this idea.

But the authorities did not respond. “They don’t even want to reply,” a local resident who asked not to be named told Al Jazeera.


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