Missing MH370: Tales of agony and regret as families in KL face up to reality

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - "I'll be back in a week. Then we can cut cake together for sister's birthday, Appa (father in Tamil)," were Petronas marketing manager Puspanathan Subramaniam's last words to his father before boarding the fateful Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Flight MH370.

The 34-year-old, who travels by air frequently for work, is the only son and the pride of security guard Subramaniam Gurusamy, 59, who tearfully recounted how he scrimped for years to fork out RM3,000 (S$1,170) a year to get his son through college.

"Now, it is all for nothing," he told the media on Sunday at the Everly Hotel, where he has been staying since Saturday with his daughter-in-law and her father. "Today is my daughter's birthday, and this happened."

His son, he said, was the first in three generations to get a "proper job". Mr Subramaniam added that he and his father before him were born and raised in poverty in a rubber estate.

"We planted a tree and thought we will enjoy the fruit of our labour. I don't know what to do now," he said.

Mr Subramaniam was among dozens of family members waiting in agony at the hotel for information of their loved ones whose plane disappeared over the sea early on Saturday.

They had been taken to the hotel after turning up at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Saturday evening as told by the airline.

Most refused to talk to the media, but those who did made plain their regret at letting their loved ones go to work overseas.

Pensioner Ibrahim Abdul Razak, 75, said he regretted his son Mohamad Sofuan Ismail's decision to accept a posting to Beijing.

He said his son, 33, a diplomatic officer with Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry, was to be posted last month to the Chinese capital for a three-year stint. But his move was postponed to last Friday.

"I can't do anything now but pray," he said.

On Sunday, emotions ran high at one point as family members got impatient at the long wait and lack of updates.

An unidentified Malaysian man yelled at and pushed MAS employee Nor Hamizan for stopping him from speaking to the media about the long wait.

Mr Nor Hamizan later told reporters there was no gag order on family members, but that they were advised not to speak to the media so as not to add unnecessary stress.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, Malaysia's Acting Transport Minister, visited the families at the hotel on Sunday.

"They know we are trying our best. They are aware how difficult and complex it is for searches such as this," he told reporters.

He did not confirm whether the families will be flown to Vietnam once the aircraft is found. But the family members were issued new or renewed passports at an immigration counter set up for them at the hotel.


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