Last of MH370 passengers' kin leave Beijing hotels

BEIJING - Others have returned home to mourn their lost loved ones on the missing MH370 flight, but the Jiang brothers stayed put for another week in the Beijing hotel that had been their home for almost two months.

Paying 759 yuan (S$152) per night for their room at the Metropark Lido Hotel, the brothers, whose 71-year-old mother was on the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jetliner, wanted to have direct contact with MAS staff, since the family assistance centre would close only a week later.

About 500 loved ones of the 153 Chinese nationals on board MH370 had been housed in various Beijing hotels since the plane went missing on March 8. On Day 55 - May 1 - MAS said it was ending their hotel accommodation but would keep the family assistance centre open till May 7.

Yesterday, younger brother Jiang Hui, 41, told an invited media group including The Straits Times that they were checking out, being unable to continue paying hotel charges.

Breaking down in his hotel room, he said: "We hope you can help us tell the world. We are at the end and totally helpless."

The brothers live in Beijing, so their journey home is not long.

Others from distant areas, like Hebei native Yang Rong, also gave up their Beijing vigil this week. The 27-year-old, whose construction worker husband was on the plane, had been paying for a hotel room on the outskirts of Beijng since May 2. Yesterday, she said she checked out on Wednesday because she could no longer afford it.

The families remain furious with MAS and the Malaysian government, accusing them of inadequate support and communication. For example, they have not received the Chinese translation of a preliminary report on the crash that was released to the media by the Malaysian government on May 1, said Mr Jiang. They read it online. Passenger information, like his mother's age, was misprinted on official documents that are needed for insurance, he added.

The Malaysian government has not responded to their repeated requests for the raw satellite data on the basis of which British firm Inmarsat concluded that MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean.

The fact that a massive, multi-nation search has not located any debris in that area makes the families think the calculations were wrong, and they believe that independent third parties should be given the raw data to work on.

On the day they left their hotels, MAS gave families a note saying that US$50,000 (S$62,400) would be dispensed to each family after they went home. The families have had no contact from MAS about this since, said Mr Steven Wang, 25, whose mother was on the plane.

Despite having gone home, the relatives are still unwilling to resume their lives. Mr Wang remains on leave to coordinate media requests and update the other families, now scattered all over northern China. Ms Yang said she is in no mood to work, saying: "I have been lying on my bed and checking my phone for news."

This article was published on May 10 in The Straits Times.

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