Kin of jet passengers struggle to cope

March 24, 2014 - 9:48:04 am
Chinese relatives of missing MH370 passengers after a meeting with airline officials at the Metro Park Lido Hotel in Beijing yesterday.

BEIJING: Like other relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, Wang Zheng’s frustration and anger over a lack of any certain information about the fate of his loved ones continues to grow two weeks after the plane went missing.

“Biggest of all is the emotional turmoil I’ve been going through. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. I’ve been dreaming of my parents every day,” said the 30-year-old IT engineer from Beijing, whose father and mother, Wang Linshi and Xiong Yunming, were both aboard the flight as part of a group of Chinese artists touring Malaysia.

The plane’s disappearance on its way from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing on March 8 has hit China particularly hard, with 153 of the 239 people on board citizens of the People’s Republic. Their relatives have spent more than two weeks on an emotional roller coaster, and while Chinese satellite images made public Saturday provided a new lead in the search, planes and a ship had yet to find anything in a remote patch of the southern Indian Ocean as of yesterday.

Relatives such as Wang have put their personal and professional lives on hold waiting for any word of the fate of their loved ones.

At a sprawling hotel complex in Beijing, the relatives rise each morning and eat breakfast — at least those who can muster the appetite — before attending a briefing on the missing plane. Then follows another long day of watching the news and waiting, before an evening briefing that inevitably offers little more information.

Amid the many theories and scant and often dubious, contradictory and disavowed findings, the relatives’ patience has at times worn thin. Following a brief meeting on Saturday with Malaysia Airlines and Malaysian government officials, impatience turned to anger as relatives erupted in shouts of “We want to know what the reality is,” and “Give us back our loved ones.”

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein called on “all parties to be understanding during this extraordinary and difficult time,” and said officials would “do everything in our power” to keep the relatives informed.

“I’m psychologically prepared for the worst and I know the chances of them coming back alive are extremely small,” said Nan Jinyan, sister-in-law of missing passenger Yan Ling. Like many of the relatives, Nan said that her helpless feelings were worsened by being almost entirely dependent on the media for news, and that she was deeply unhappy with what she called the vague and often contradictory information coming from Malaysia Airlines.

“If they can’t offer something firm, they ought to just shut up,” said Nan. On Saturday, China released a satellite image showing a large object floating in the search zone that was taken Tuesday. “We’re exhausted,” Wang said. “Why did the plane fly so far away? Are the people still alive? Is this new piece of information reliable? This is how I feel.”

Wang said he still had hope and was praying that the Australian reports that debris from the plane may have been spotted turned out to be false. He said he and other relatives had lingering suspicions about what they were being told by the Malaysian side, but were at a loss as to what to do next. “We feel they’re hiding something from us,” Wang said.