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Saturday, December 24, 2005


Plane crash in Baku

It's the truth -- an Azal flight from Baku to Aktau, Kazakhstan crashed last night just after take off. I heard about it at 6 am today, from a friend in Portland who wanted to make sure we weren't on it. It was disorienting to turn on the local news and see nothing about it. That's a mixed blessing: on one hand, you don't get the hysterical hnon-stop coverage and manufactured drama to fill airtime. On the other hand, it's hard to get any information. Apparently only one TV outlet -- the one owned by the President's family -- was allowed at the crash site.

Tragically, 23 people were killed, including two westerners. Baku and Aktau are the capitals of their respective countries' oil industries, so it was probably a planeload of oil workers. Usually, Azal isn't that bad, but a reporter friend told me the plane that crashed was one of four new ones the airline recently purchased from Ukraine. One of those planes typically flies to Tbilisi. Probably I'll take the train from now on.

After going through a mental checklist making sure everyone I know who was planning to leave had already left Baku, I wondered next who important was on that plane, trying to make a hasty, low profile exit.

One report I read said the wreckage suggested an explosion. Maybe I've been here too long but I'm not going to lay awake nights waiting for them to find the black box and report the real cause, . It's going to be much more interesting -- and probably more enlightening -- to listen to the rumors.

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