Missing MH370: Little comfort in compensation for grieving Chinese families

Missing MH370: Little comfort in compensation for grieving Chinese families

PETALING JAYA - Though Chinese tradition dictates a 100-day mourning period for the deceased, many families of the 153 Chinese nationals on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 are unable to cope with their loss.

Hu Xuifang's son and daughter-in-law were on the plane, along with their toddler and their eight-month-old baby. "The five of us lived together," she said. "Now it's just me, in the empty house."

Wen, the mother of one Chinese victim said, "To know that somebody is alive, you need to see them, to know that somebody is dead, you need to see the body. That's all I ask."

As the fate of the Boeing 777-2H6ER that disappeared on March 8 remains a mystery, many Chinese families cannot gain any measure of comfort from the ritual to carry on with their lives, the International Business Times reported.

This has also complicated the process of determining compensation for families of the victims.

Under the 1999 Montreal Convention, the airline in question is required to pay up to US$176,000 (S$220,000) to the next of kin after a fatality.

Malaysia Airlines began this process by paying US$5,000 (RM16,092) to the family of each victim to cover immediate travel expenses, with an additional US$50,000 (RM160,925) to a handful of others.

With no physical evidence of the MH370 crash, the airline has positioned itself to absorb the bulk of disbursement.

In anticipation of settling compensation claims, Malaysia Airline's German-based insurer, Allianz, has reportedly placed US$110mil (RM354mil) in an escrow account.

However, those looking to file civil suits - against parties such as the airline, equipment manufacturers or even individuals, with proof of liability - have a two-year window to do so as stipulated by the Montreal Convention, said California-based lawyer and aviation-insurance expert Mark Danko.

But with no conclusive knowledge of what happened to the Beijing-bound plane after it disappeared from radars one hundred days ago, many have hesitated to initiate legal proceedings.

"In some cultures, it's something they'd never do," Danko added.

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