Nearly 50 family members and friends of passengers on missing Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 kept a stoic vigil through the day in a secure room at Changi Airport's Terminal 2.
Last night, 16 next-of-kin flew to Surabaya, said a Changi Airport Group (CAG) spokesman. The others had left the airport, either for a hotel or their own homes.Last night, 16 next-of-kin flew to Surabaya, said a Changi Airport Group (CAG) spokesman. The others had left the airport, either for a hotel or their own homes.
But for most of the day, a third-floor holding area was cordoned off from the public by auxiliary police officers, who stood guard just past the barriers.
Few of those waiting for news left the room. The handful who trickled out - such as Mrs C. K. Tan, a Singaporean in her 40s - were teary- eyed but kept their emotions in check.
Clutching her young daughter's arm in one hand, and a balled-up piece of tissue paper in the other, she told The Straits Times: "My helper was on the flight. I called her five times this morning, but she didn't pick up. Then my neighbour heard the news, so I rushed here."
Silence and hushed whispers filled the holding room, she said.
"Nobody is wailing or anything. Everyone is quite calm, even though we don't have much information. But we understand the airport staff are doing their best," she said. "They're also not sure what's happened. And I think we all want them to get confirmation first, instead of saying unconfirmed things."
Flight QZ8501 from Surabaya, which was supposed to land at Changi Airport at 8.30am, was declared missing after Jakarta air traffic control lost contact with it at 7.17am.
AirAsia confirmed the incident at 11.14am. By 1pm, signs had been put up around the airport to direct relatives and friends to the holding area. On the flight-status boards around the airport, QZ8501 had "Go to info counter" listed beside it.
At the information counter near the arrival hall, a group of four Indonesian women glanced repeatedly at their mobile phones, looking up reports on the missing flight, as they waited for directions to the holding area.
An uncle was on board, they told The Straits Times. He was coming to visit them during a holiday and it would have been his first trip to Singapore. They were led away by airport staff before they could say more.
Most of the 155 passengers on board are Indonesians. A middle- aged Indonesian woman living in Singapore, who did not give her name, said four of her relatives are on the flight - including two youngsters, aged 12 and 17.
CAG said in a statement that by 6.30pm, 47 relatives and friends of 57 passengers on board the flight had registered at the holding area.
Four counsellors from the Ministry of Social and Family Development and more than 30 CAG workers were there to provide support. AirAsia staff and officials from the Indonesian Embassy here also paid visits.
Tall purple screens were later wheeled out to block any view into the room, as people were hurried past the cordons by airport staff holding back the crowds.
This article was first published on December 29, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.