Coming together when crises strike

There is a wavering moment at the height of a tragedy when a nation might be torn between relying on its native strength, as duty and pride dictate, and tapping the proficiencies of concerned neighbours, as efficiency requires. What recent Asian aviation disasters have shown is that it is never a case of either-or, but always both. A unified response is the sensible way of dealing with a grave crisis bearing an international dimension.

That logic has been demonstrated once again by the multinational effort to support the Indonesian-led search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501, which yielded its first results yesterday. Singapore is assisting as well by sending aircraft and vessels to help scour the Java Sea off Kalimantan. Like a host of other nations, it had also contributed to the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which had disappeared in March. In both cases, the Republic's deployment of assets included C-130 aircraft, naval vessels and a submarine support-and-rescue vessel. Underwater locator beacon detectors are to be also used to find the plane's "black box". Given the scale of the task and the deep anxiety of families of the victims on board, a collaborative approach to locating the missing aircraft provides greater assurance that no effort is being spared.

Indeed, the consistency of cooperation and rigour evident in regional responses to crises helps to bolster public confidence after the unfortunate incidents this year that have shaken Asian aviation - in particular the loss of two Malaysia Airlines Boeing jets and the Indonesia AirAsia Airbus jet. However, what bears emphasis is that South-east Asian airlines generally have a good safety record and emplace high standards of aircraft maintenance and crew training. From a statistical perspective, global civil aviation has become safer, with a record low number of passenger flight accidents, despite a surge in the number of travellers from 2.2 billion in 2005 to 3.1 billion last year.

When tragedies occur, it's gratifying to see nations readily and speedily extending technical assistance. Searches conducted in the open sea, for example, might require submersibles to locate debris on the sea bed. With deep-water technology in the hands of only a few, none in Asia can hope to go it alone in handling such situations.

Beyond search and rescue missions, there is a compelling case for the region to work together in preparing for human-induced disasters, earthquakes, tsunamis, and large-scale flooding. The widely different nature of conceivable emergencies necessitates a dovetailing of disaster risk reduction measures and crisis mitigation strategies so resources can be pooled and deployed effectively.