Fam­i­lies’ pa­tience wear­ing thin

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XU WEI xuwei@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Ag­i­tated rel­a­tives of the Chi­nese pas­sen­gers on board the miss­ing Flight MH370, deeply dis­trust­ful of both the Malaysian govern­ment and the air­line, raised more ques­tions and de­manded im­me­di­ate an­swers dur­ing lengthy brief­ings on Thurs­day.

Al­most six days af­ter the Malaysia Air­lines plane went miss­ing with its 227 pas­sen­gers, in­clud­ing 154 Chi­nese and a crew of 12, rel­a­tives are los­ing their pa­tience.

The brief­ing at a room at the Metropark Lido Ho­tel in Bei­jing started at 9 am on Thurs­day and lasted more than five hours, much longer than any pre­vi­ous ses­sions, as in­creas­ingly hos­tile rel­a­tives pressed for an­swers from govern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing an of­fi­cial from the Malaysian avi­a­tion author­ity. The rel­a­tives would not al­low the rep­re­sen­ta­tives to leave un­til they pro­vided an­swers.

Weary of wait­ing, the fam­i­lies de­manded that Malaysian of­fi­cials give them an­swers right away, even push­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tives to make phone calls to Malaysia from the ho­tel meet­ing room as they lis­tened.

An air­line ex­ec­u­tive, Ig­ni­tias Ong, and his Chi­nese trans­la­tor broke into tears in the tense at­mos­phere as fam­ily mem­bers chipped away at the air­line’s ac­count of its res­cue ef­forts.

“We also have col­leagues on the flight, and we want them alive as much as you do,” said a tear­ful Ong.

Some raised ques­tions about news re­ports say­ing that Malaysian mil­i­tary radar tracked an uniden­ti­fied fly­ing ob­ject on a radar screen be­tween 2:15 and 2:40 am.

A fe­male of­fi­cial with the Depart­ment of Civil Avi­a­tion Malaysia said mil­i­tary radar last saw the ob­ject at 2:40 am be­fore it dis­ap­peared, and its last con­firmed lo­ca­tion was at the Palau Perak Is­land near the Strait of Malacca.

How­ever, as mil­i­tary radar does not have ac­cess to de­tailed in­for­ma­tion, un­like the civil avi­a­tion sys­tem, it was un­able to iden­tify the blip as the miss­ing MH370 flight, the of­fi­cial said.

She added that the ob­ject on the mil­i­tary radar had fly­ing be­hav­ior that at times re­sem­bled that of a Boe­ing 777-200, but some­times did not.

“That is why we are un­able to be 100 per­cent sure,” she said.

Datuk Iskan­dar Sarudin, the Malaysian am­bas­sador to China, de­nied re­ports that the Malaysian air force launched an airstrike against the uniden­ti­fied ob­ject and de­stroyed it.

He of­fered a sim­ple “no” when pressed by rel­a­tives about whether the Malaysian air force tar­geted any fly­ing ob­ject shortly af­ter the air­liner went miss­ing.

One rel­a­tive de­manded that the Malaysian air force make pub­lic the de­tails of its track­ing of the uniden­ti­fied ob­ject and also that a Malaysian mil­i­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tive be present at the brief­ing ses­sions.

How­ever, Ong said he could only pass the de­mand to the govern­ment and wait for an an­swer.

“I can­not give you the an­swers now. I can only con­vey the mes­sage to the govern­ment. If I make a false prom­ise right now, to­mor­row I show up and you will say I was ly­ing,” he said.

Some fam­ily mem­bers also de­manded that the Malaysians ad­dress a re­port by the Wall Street Jour­nal that the miss­ing flight stayed in the air for about four hours af­ter reach­ing its last con­firmed lo­ca­tion.

Hugh Dun­leavy, commercial di­rec­tor for the air­line, said the re­port by the WSJ was not true as the last en­gine sig­nal sent by the air­craft to the ground was at 1:07 am on March 8, 14 min­utes be­fore the flight dis­ap­peared.

How­ever, he added, the pi­lot did have the abil­ity to turn off the en­gine, even though that only hap­pens in ex­treme cir­cum­stances.

LIN HUI / FOR CHINA DAILY

Datuk Iskan­dar Sarudin (left), the Malaysian am­bas­sador to China, calls the Malaysian mil­i­tary to re­lay ques­tions from fam­ily mem­bers of Chi­nese pas­sen­gers aboard the miss­ing plane.

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