MH370: Grieved relatives shocked

March 25, 2014 - 4:35:07 am
A family member of a passenger aboard Malaysia Airlines MH370 cries as she is surrounded by journalists after watching a television broadcast of a news conference, at the Lido hotel in Beijing yesterday. RIGHT: Another family member is rushed to an ambulance after she collapsed.

BEIJING: Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines flight screamed, cried and collapsed on the ground yesterday after the Malaysian prime minister announced the jet ended its journey in the remote Southern Indian Ocean, ending an agonising 17-day ordeal.

At the Beijing hotel where many of the relatives are staying, family members erupted in shouts and tears after they heard the news, wailing and in some cases dropping to the floor. One woman screamed out: “It’s not possible, it’s not possible!” before collapsing.

At least four people were stretchered out, having apparently been overcome with emotion. Others lashed out at reporters. “Something is being withheld, something is being withheld!” shouted another man. Others struggled to accept what they had been told. “I want to tell the journalists...the information they just sent...is not true!” said one lady.

Flight MH370 vanished from civilian radar screens less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 people — more than half Chinese nationals — on board on March 8. No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since, but much debris has been found in waters off Australia which might be part of the missing plane.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said fresh analysis of satellite information from British company Inmarsat had shown that the last position of the aircraft was in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, Australia.

Several Chinese media outlets reported on their official Weibo microblogs that family members received a text message saying that “we have to assume beyond reasonable doubt” that none of those on board survived.

China has repeatedly pressed the airline and the Malaysian government to give more information to family members and ensure they are being properly looked after. Some relatives had threatened hunger strikes and protests in front of the Malaysian embassy. 

“We know we have no hope left now,” one bereaved relative said. Most were too distressed to talk. A few simply covered their heads, hiding their emotions as they ran a gauntlet of journalists. Grief was closely followed by anger for some, with one sobbing woman leaving the room shouting “murderers, murderers”.

Some relatives lost control as they departed, with one man throwing punches and kicks at the media crowd Inside the room, heavy clouds of tobacco smoke hung overhead, with almost every man drawing heavily on cigarettes. Many faces were pale with shock, and most people stared into space, almost oblivious to other relatives around them.

Candle after candle was posted on China’s hugely popular weibo microblog sites, in electronic tributes to the dead.  “I just can’t believe it nor accept it, after having searched so many days, and waited so many days, only to finally receive news of the crash!” wrote one user.  “It’s impossible to imagine how these desperate families could handle it.” 

Some Chinese have embraced far-fetched conspiracy theories in the period since the plane disappeared, and there were those who refused to believe the plane had gone down. One woman at the Lido hotel approached reporters, wailing, saying she believed her daughter was being “hidden” and had not died.

The official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, the People’s Daily, wrote on its microblog that many questions remained to be answered, including why the plane ended up in the Indian Ocean and what exactly the new satellite evidence was. 

Reuters/AFP

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