Missing MH370: Families of Chinese passengers leave hotels in Beijing after MAS deadline

Family members cry as they light candles on a cake to mark the 21st birthday of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, April 8, 2014.

BEJING - Families of Chinese passengers aboard the ill-fated Flight MH370 left Lido Hotel here on Friday evening, following Malaysia Airlines' decision to close all its family assistance centres.

A notice has been put up to inform the families that MAS would stop providing food and accommodation from 6pm on Friday (May 2) at all three hotels in Beijing, namely Lido, Rosedale Hotel and Chunhuiyuan Hotel, where lodging has been provided since March 8.

The next-of-kin could be seen bidding each other farewell at the hotel lobby at about 6pm, before leaving in small groups.

The doors of the ballroom, where daily briefings were held for the families, were locked after the deadline.

A new notice has been put up to inform the families that MAS would make an advanced compensation payment of US$50,000 (S$62,650) after they return home to help them cope financially.

"Details will be announced via our official communication platform within two weeks," the statement read. A MAS official said the airline would be in close touch with families.

"They are able to contact us through our family support centre and three 24-hour hotlines," he said. The centre at Shunyi district in Beijing would be open from May 4 onwards.

It would be in-charge of communication with MAS' headquarters and the Malaysian and Chinese governments, besides coordinating the dissemination of latest updates to the family members.

"We are also going to keep them updated via SMS messages which will be in Mandarin," a MAS official said.

Meanwhile, the families committee said on its official Weibo account said the families were "helpless over this sudden and irresponsible announcement."

"Many of us are suddenly left with nowhere to go. Where should the old people and the next-of-kin from outstation go? Where is the plane? Where are our family members?" it said.

However, the post disappeared a few hours later.

A new post lamenting the lack of response to the families' request for an effective "liaison mechanism" to address their technical queries was published instead.

CNN reported that the relatives "wailed and yelled" when the announcement to close down the assistance centre was made in a briefing on Thursday.

It said a video of MAS CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya making a seven-minute English statement was played for the next-of-kin.

The families began to break down when the message was translated into Mandarin, according to Sarah Bajc, the American partner of a passenger Philip Wood, who was in Beijing.