Lit­tle progress made as lead­ers meet at de­brief­ing

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

Busi­ness at the Mean Bean Cafe has been brisk these past few weeks. Apart from the reg­u­lars and truck driv­ers who drop in for their morn­ing fix of cof­fee and toasted ba­con and egg sand­wiches, jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing the search for flight MH370 have added to rev­enues.

Lo­cated on the side of the Great North­ern High­way just down the road from the en­trance to the Pearce Aus­tralian air force base, the cof­fee is wel­come on a cold morn­ing.

Dozens of jour­nal­ists from all over the world cov­er­ing this story have been camped in­side the base since the search for MH370 moved into Aus­tralian wa­ters nearly three weeks ago.

Pearce, an Aus­tralian air force train­ing base, has also seen its num­bers in­crease with an additional 550 to 600 air­men and women from sev­eral coun­tries search­ing the vast empti­ness of the In­dian Ocean for clues into the flight’s March 8 dis­ap­pear­ance.

Jour­nal­ists were told to be at the base by 6:30 am for the ar­rival of Aus­tralia’s Prime Min­is­ter Tony Ab­bott and his Malaysian coun­ter­part Na­jib Razak.

Some me­dia crews have been liv­ing out of camper vans on the base. Lo­cally, there is lit­tle ac­com­mo­da­tion avail­able so most of us make the trip out from Perth.

When the search for the miss­ing Boe­ing 777 moved to wa­ters off Western Aus­tralia, Pearce be­came the me­dia fo­cal point. First, the me­dia were parked along the main road that runs from Perth to Ger­ald­ton, which is roughly 400 km to the north. Ve­hi­cles would roar through this spot clock­ing well over 100 km/h, kick­ing up dust and loose gravel.

As the num­bers be­gan to swell and safety be­came an is­sue, the mil­i­tary moved the me­dia in­side the main gate, where they have been camped ever since in the hopes of get­ting any in­for­ma­tion, no mat­ter how small, for their morn­ing or evening bul­letins.

This morn­ing of­fered us two prime min­is­ters and hope­fully some news. But the lead­ers had pre­pared speeches and cov­er­age was down to a small me­dia pool due to time and space. There were no ques­tions.

Jour­nal­ists be­gan ar­riv­ing just as dawn broke over the town of Bulls­brook, which is home to Pearce.

As the me­dia pool was be­ing as­sem­bled, one out­let was no­tice­ably miss­ing: the Malaysian news agency Ber­nama. With the Aus­tralian prime min­is­ter due any minute, time was get­ting tight for the crew from Ber­nama.

When the crew fi­nally ar­rived, the small me­dia pool was taken across a car park and in­side a build­ing in front of the main me­dia camp. Air­men and women stood a few me­ters apart to make sure jour­nal­ists not in­cluded in the pool did not ven­ture across the street.

At 7:30 am, a small con­voy of white Aus­tralian govern­ment cars drove through the main gate and dis­ap­peared be­hind the build­ing out of view.

Fif­teen min­utes later, the Malaysian prime min­is­ter’s mo­tor­cade ar­rived. It, too, dis­ap­peared be­hind the build­ing in front of the press camp.

The head of the Joint Agency Co­or­di­na­tion Cen­ter, for­mer de­fense chief An­gus Hous­ton, briefed the two lead­ers about the search. There was noth­ing new in what he said to the two prime min­is­ters.

The whole thing lasted no more than five min­utes be­fore the me­dia pool was es­corted back to the me­dia camp just in­side the front gates.

In­side the build­ing, the lead­ers met with about 50 air­men and women from eight na­tions in­volved in the search. We were told that both lead­ers thanked them for their ef­forts.

Down the road at the Mean Bean Cafe, the cof­fee was hot and the po­lice who were wait­ing to es­cort Na­jib back to Perth waited on their mo­tor­cy­cles. No cof­fee for them this morn­ing. Con­tact the writer at karl­wil­son@chi­nadai­lya­pac. com

WANG ZHAO / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Chi­nese rel­a­tives of pas­sen­gers on the miss­ing flight MH370 rest be­fore a meet­ing at a ho­tel in Bei­jing on Thurs­day. The hunt for phys­i­cal ev­i­dence into the jet’s crash has turned up noth­ing.

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