Missing MH370: Hope remains for Indonesian family members

JAKARTA - Two days have passed since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 went missing, but the families of seven Indonesian passengers aboard the ill-fated plane are still holding out hope that all passengers and crew members are still alive.

The family members of three Indonesian passengers expressed their wishes during a mass prayer, which was held at a home of passenger Firman Chandra Siregar, in Medan, North Sumatra.

"We hope the authorities locate the plane so that we can learn the fate of the passengers and crew members," Firman's father, Chrisman Siregar, told The Jakarta Post after the mass prayer on Sunday.

Chrisman said that he had sent a text message to Firman on Friday at around 11:20 p.m. before the plane took off.

"Firman texted me, saying that he was on board and would depart soon. I told him to say a prayer so he would arrive at his destination safe and sound," he said, adding that Firman was flying to Beijing as he was to be stationed in China's capital.

Chrisman said that he tried to contact his son on Sunday at around 6 a.m., but Firman did not pick up his phone.

Firman, who graduated from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) in 2011, had worked at an oil company in Abu Dhabi before he accepted a job with a European oil-field services company.

Firman is one of seven Indonesians on board the missing plane, lost en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Three of the passengers are Medan residents. They are Firman, 24, and married couple Sugianto Lo, 47 and Vinny Chynthya Tio, 47. The four other passengers are Ferry Indra Suadaya, Herry Indra Suadaya, Indra Suria Tanurisam and Willy Surijanto Wang.

On Sunday, the National Police's Disaster Victim Identification (DVI) team took samples of Firman's family members' DNA on Sunday as part of its antemortem examinations, said head of the medical and health division at the North Sumatra Police, Sr. Comr. Priyo Kuncoro.

Meanwhile, Surti Dahlia Simanjuntak, 50, an Indonesian-born Dutch citizen who once resided in Medan, was also aboard the flight. "She was here on vacation. She planned to fly to Amsterdam on Malaysia Airlines, which was scheduled to make a stop in China. But we haven't been able to contact her," said Surti's brother, Masnur Simanjuntak.



A Malaysia Airlines supervisor in Medan, Rahmat, said that the airline had flown four representatives of the four passengers' families from Medan to Malaysia. Previously, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement that one of the company's primary focuses was to care for the families, meaning that it would provide them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodations, meals and emotional support. Initial financial assistance had been given to all families, he added.

The ill-fated jetliner, which was carrying 239 people, lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning. It should have landed in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. local time, but contact was lost at 2:40 a.m.

Two large oil slicks spotted on Saturday by the Vietnamese air force off the southern tip of Vietnam offered the first sign that the jetliner had crashed into the ocean after vanishing from radar, Associated Press reported.

However, Malaysia's director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, told reporters that the oil slick find had yet to be verified.

There has been some speculation over the jetliner incident. Malaysian Air Force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud said on Sunday that a military radar indicated that the missing jet might have turned back before vanishing, AP reported. Authorities are also investigating up to four passengers with suspicious identifications.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Michael Tene told the Post that his ministry had yet to receive updated information. "The plane has not been found until now [as of Sunday evening]," Michael said, adding that he did not want to speculate on the plane's condition or its passengers.

In a related development, the Indonesian Navy's Western Fleet deployed on Sunday two patrol boats and a maritime patrol aircraft to comb areas in the South China Sea, which is thought to be where the commercial aircraft crashed, in response to an emergency request by the Royal Malaysian Navy.

The Western Fleet's Maritime Security Task Force (Guspurla) commander, Commodore Harjo Susmoro, said that he had deployed two PC-40 fast patrol vessels, the KRI Matacora-823 and KRI Krait-827, as well as a maritime patrol aircraft to comb parts of the South China Sea, which borders Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia.

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