Missing MH370: Families in India wait in anguish

Missing MH370: Families in India wait in anguish

NEW DELHI - Anxious relatives from India, Australia and other countries are among those waiting for news on their loved ones, as the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet continues.

Five Indian passengers, four Australians and one Canadian-Indian were among the 239 passengers on the ill-fated MH370 Boeing 777 jet from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing which went missing mid-flight over the waters of the South China Sea last Saturday.

In the city of Pune, Mr Prahlad Shirsath, who returned on Thursday from Kuala Lumpur, has been scouring television news and the Internet for any news of the missing plane. His wife Kranti, 44, a former chemistry professor, had been on her way to visit him in North Korea. He last talked to her at the Kuala Lumpur airport.

"She was walking towards the gate and said 'everything is okay... I will see you'," said Mr Shirsath, who works for a non-profit group in North Korea.

He decided to come home to be with his two schoolgoing sons.

"A plane just can't vanish into thin air. I don't know what is happening but we can't just lose hope," said Mr Shirsath. At this point, said his brother Satish Shirsath, it was preferable to think the plane had been hijacked.

"We frequently feel she will come because there are so many theories. We hear satellite has located something, then Malaysia denies it. So it feels that the plane hasn't fallen into the sea and there are so many countries looking. Maybe it has been hijacked."

While a handful of relatives from India have flown to Malaysia, most have stayed in India to be with family and friends.

At least one Indian family feels there should be more support from the Indian government.

"I was asking myself, where is my government? Here, where I am, there has been no contact to answer questions like should I go (to Kuala Lumpur) or what kind of eventuality I should prepare myself for," said Mr K. S. Narendran, whose 55-year-old wife Chandrika Sharma was on the plane. He also felt India should have joined the search efforts much earlier.

India decided on Thursday to send three Indian naval ships and four aircraft to help in the search.

For now, Mr Narendran, who has been contacted by the Indian High Commission in Malaysia, said he and those with family on the ill-fated flight have no option but to wait, even as normal life screeches to a halt.

His wife, who worked with the non-profit International Collective in Support of Fish Workers, was on her way to Mongolia for a conference. He said he still held out hope of a "happy ending".

In Kolkata, the family of Mr Muktesh Mukherjee, 42, is not just waiting for news of the plane but are worried about their two children, aged two and nine, who are in Beijing.

Mr Mukherjee, a Canadian of Indian origin and vice-president of China operations with US-based Xcoal Energy and Resources, was on the flight with his wife Xiaomo Bai.

His uncle, retired Supreme Court judge M. K. Mukherjee said the immediate worry was also to take care of the two children.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg


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