Missing MH370: Holding out hope his sister is alive

KUALA LUMPUR - One week after his sister went missing on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Mr Chng Khai Sheng clings to a glimmer of hope that she is still alive.

"I have been harbouring the hope that the plane would have been hijacked or flown to somewhere else," Mr Chng, 30, told The Straits Times. "Only then would my sister have a chance to live."

Last Saturday, Mr Chng's hopes were revived when Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed that the aircraft was in the air until 8.11am on March 8, seven hours after it lost contact with air traffic control.

That was enough for Mr Chng to conclude that the plane his sister Chng Meiling, 33, was on had been hijacked. On Monday evening, the Malaysian government said it had not been contacted by any group or individual for ransom or other demands.

Weary from getting by on three hours of sleep a night, Mr Chng cut a lonely figure as he paced the Everly Hotel Putrajaya, where more than 100 family members of passengers waited for news.

Wearing a crumpled T-shirt with bermudas or jeans and slippers, Mr Chng was often seen puffing away at a smoking corner outside the hotel.

It was the first time that Ms Chng, a Malaysian, had boarded a Malaysia Airlines flight to the United States, where she works as a senior process engineer with Flexsys America in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. Her employer had bought her a first-class ticket, and she was to transit in Beijing to Pittsburg, said Mr Chng.

He added that his sister bought a house in the Pittsburg suburbs last October and was hoping to obtain green card residency status.

"She has worked very hard, and she was looking forward to settling down in the US," said Mr Chng, his voice trembling. "She was also making plans for our parents to visit her."

But on March 8, Ms Chng vanished, together with 238 other passengers and crew on board Flight MH370, headed for Beijing. Despite a 25-nation search, the plane is still missing.

Mr Chng, the fourth of five children, recalled how he was woken up by a call from another elder sister the morning the plane went missing. It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride since, he told The Straits Times last Saturday.

"When my elder sister called Malaysia Airlines to check, she was told to pack some clothes to get ready to leave for Vietnam, where the plane lost communications with the airport's traffic control. I went to the airport with my sister and, instead of taking us to Vietnam, we were taken to Everly Hotel to wait for news."

Airline staff could not tell them where the plane was.

"We were so angry. How could they not know?" he said.

Mr Chng's mood swung from anger at the airline staff to anguish. During impromptu briefings - including one held at 11.30pm - airline staff never told family members anything they had not already read in the media.

"It was very hard for us to accept the way they are handling the case," said Mr Chng.

Last Saturday, he went home to Sungai Petani, Kedah. Another brother has taken over the vigil.

"Every day, I can only wait. I feel so helpless," he said. "But deep inside me, I feel that as long as the plane is not found, there is hope that my sister would still be alive."


Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.