Relatives still holding out hope as they wait

Relatives still holding out hope as they wait
A man takes a nap next to a banner dedicated to passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 as he waits for a briefing to be given by Malaysian representatives at the Lido Hotel in Beijing.

Some have left to pick up the pieces of their lives shattered by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370, but many anguished relatives are still in Beijing waiting for news of their loved ones' fate.

Strength and comfort in numbers has kept them there, said Mr Steven Wang, 25, a representative of the families in Beijing. His mother too was on the plane that has been missing since March 8.

"The numbers have dropped with fewer family members now," he told The Straits Times. "But most passengers still have someone here. After all, here you have people by your side... You're not facing the situation alone," he added.

MAS continues to pay for their hotel stay in Beijing.

Mr Wang said the relatives, who numbered as many as 500 at one point, now busy themselves with events such as celebrating passengers' birthdays and attending the daily briefings held by MAS and Malaysian officials.

Said Madam Nan Kaifen, 40, whose husband was a construction worker in Singapore: "We can only wait for news and chat with each other at the hotel. Even though it's difficult to endure, we have to."

The MAS plane carrying 239 people, 153 of whom were Chinese nationals, lost contact with air traffic control 50 minutes after taking off from Kuala Lumpur in what has become the biggest aviation mystery in modern history.

Despite growing chatter that the plane's black box might soon be found in the southern Indian Ocean - its discovery would confirm the plane had crashed - some relatives still hold out hope.

Some told The Straits Times they will travel to Australia only if there is official word the black box or debris has been found.

The disbelief is also apparent in a messaging group maintained by Chinese relatives on the WeChat social media tool.

A woman whose husband was on the plane wrote: "We have gone through this cycle so many times. A tragedy has become a farce. It's not that I refuse to accept reality, I just want the truth."

Similarly in Malaysia, relatives are keeping faith that their loved ones are still safe.

Last Saturday, Mr Mohamad Shahril Saari, 36, cousin of missing passengers Mohd Razahan Zamani and his wife Norli Akmar Hamid, gathered friends and family members to perform prayers for the couple. Mr Mohamad said Mr Razahan's mother was preparing food for the guests but burst into tears while cooking her son's favourite dishes.

"She still can't bear to see her son's photographs and tears up easily at the mention of Razahan," he told The Straits Times.

"All we want to see is evidence that the plane crashed," he said. "Right now, it is hard for us to have closure."

Mr Selamat Umar, 60, whose son Mohd Khairul Amri was a passenger, said he has come to terms with losing his son. He keeps a photograph of his son on him.

"Whenever I feel anxious, I would look at his photo and feel peaceful," he said.

This article was published on April 12 in The Straits Times.

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