MALAYSIA - It has been more than a month since the tragic and mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The whereabouts of the plane continue to frustrate and confound search teams as they trawl the vast Indian Ocean.
But even as the search goes on, questions have already been raised about the practical, day-to-day issues that the next of kin of passengers and crew may be facing in the absence of their loved ones.
For example, loans have to be paid and wages will be due for those who are employed.
Optimistically, banks, employers and insurers, acknowledging that these are "extraordinary circumstances" have stepped up to make things as smooth as possible for the families concerned.
In offering its sympathy to the family members, loved ones and friends of the passengers and crew on board flight MH370, the Association of Banks in Malaysia (ABM) said its members were prepared to review all matters on a case-by-case basis to see how best to handle and smoothen the paths of due process faced by the next of kin.
"Generally, the banks will suspend all credit cards. Assistance will also be provided to the next of kin on a case-to-case basis as may be deemed fit, which may include offering moratoriums or cessation of interest and late charges.
"For housing loans covered by mortgage reducing term assurance, some banks note that their insurers have agreed to waive the requirement of death certificates for processing the claims as long as the borrower is confirmed to be a passenger or crew on board the flight by the relevant authority," said ABM executive director Chuah Mei Lin.
She added that banks were prepared to "maintain open communication with the next of kin of the passengers and crew, and at least one bank has appointed a liaison for matters related to MH370".
She urged all the relatives to approach the banks to get assistance.
They are also welcome to contact ABM at its ABMConnect hotline 1-300-88-9980 or emailing to eABMConnect by logging onto their website, www.abm.org.my.
ABM's council of 13 banks comprise Malayan Banking Bhd, Affin Bank Bhd, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd, AmBank (M) Bhd, CIMB Bank Bhd, Citibank Bhd, Hong Leong Bank Bhd, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd, OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd, Public Bank Bhd, RHB Bank Bhd, Standard Chartered Bank Malaysia Bhd and the United Overseas Bank (Malaysia) Bhd.
Chuah said in a usual missing person's case, "each bank would have its own standard operating procedure, predicated on evidence acceptable to the bank that the customer is missing".
"The evidence may include, but is not limited to, a pronouncement or declaration of the court or confirmation by the police. In the case of MH370, banks are sympathetic and will be prepared to be facilitative once the passenger or crew is proven to be a bank customer since the circumstances are extraordinary."