Missing MH370: Relatives in Beijing torn by latest revelations

Missing MH370: Relatives in Beijing torn by latest revelations

Relatives of Chinese passengers aboard the missing MH370 plane again experienced a roller-coaster ride of emotions - calm, frustration, shock and anger - over Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's press briefing in Kuala Lumpur.

Gathered in a packed hotel ballroom here, many became impatient when the briefing was delayed on Saturday. Some mumbled in disgust and exhaled in irritation - before he arrived more than an hour late, at around 2.20pm.

There was calm initially as they listened to him repeat known facts. But that turned to chaos when Datuk Seri Najib revealed that the plane's last contact with a satellite was at 8.11am on March 8.

Before that, the authorities had been saying contact had been lost almost seven hours earlier, at 1.20am last Saturday, about an hour after the Boeing 777-200ER left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. The 239 passengers on board included 153 Chinese nationals.

"How could this be?" exclaimed one, moments after hearing Mr Najib's comments through an interpreter on state broadcaster CCTV's live telecast of the briefing.

Another yelled: "The plane couldn't have flown beyond 8.11am. Where did it land?" while others shouted "this is more and more ludicrous".

When the meeting at the Metropark Lido hotel in Beijing ended, some people tried to stop Malaysia's envoy to China Iskandar Sarudin from leaving. One man lunged forward to block him physically but security officers held him back.

But some families said their suspicions that the plane had been hijacked were bolstered by Mr Najib's revelation that its communication systems were disabled deliberately.

One said this meant "there is a 50-50 per cent" chance of survival for their loved ones. Others were overheard saying "there is a shred of hope for us".

Malaysia Airlines' commercial director, Mr Hugh Dunleavy, later told the relatives that the thrice-daily briefings given by the airline will be taken over by the Malaysian government. He added that the airline will inform the relatives soon on how they will be cared for from today. Madam Fang, in her 50s and whose niece was on the plane, wished Malaysia had revealed the details earlier.

"If it's because they were negotiating for the safety of the passengers, then we can accept it, but the passengers must be safe," she told The Sunday Times. "Otherwise, it has been too cruel. The psychological pressure on my sister and all of us has been too hard."

kianbeng@sph.com.sg

rchang@sph.com.sg


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