BEIJING - Tempers frayed as angry family members left a hotel near Beijng airport on Saturday afternoon, yelling that they were not getting any updates from Malaysia Airlines (MAS) on its missing plane and demanding that the Chinese government send military planes to conduct search and rescue efforts.
Many were taken to the Crowne Hotel Beijing Lido after going to the Beijing airport to meet their loved ones on MAS Flight MH370, scheduled to land at around 6.30am on Saturday.
A distraught woman in her 30s shouted to a rolling mob of journalists: "All we have is a piece of paper saying the same things that you guys already know! We demand the Chinese government to send rescue teams immediately!"
Some of the family members were seen carrying luggage and overheard making plans to travel to Vietnam. But they did not confirm when asked if the airlines or authorities were making the travel arrangements for them.
Some Chinese reporters, dismayed at the development, emerged from the hotel with teary eyes, causing confusion as other journalists, assuming they were grieving family members, tried to interview them.
More than 50 reporters, cameramen and photograpers waited outside a room on the hotel's second floor where the families were gathered, hoping to find out about the flight and the passengers. The room was sealed off and guarded by security. Sounds of crying could be heard from outside the room.
According to MAS, 153 of the 239 people on board the missing flight - a codeshare with China Southern Airlines - are Chinese citizens.
A relative, who only wanted to be known as Mr Liang, told The Straits Times that he was awoken by news on Saturday morning that his niece Bai Xiaomo, who is in her thirties, was on the flight. He rushed immediately to the hotel with his wife as Ms Bai had not been contactable. The couple are related to Ms Bai's mother.
"Her parents and relatives are now all gathered at home and crying so we're here just to get some information," he added.
The plane lost contact with Subang Air Traffic Control at about 2.40am on Saturday, two hours after it departed.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters: "The news is very disturbing. We hope everyone on the plane is safe,"
Mr Wang was speaking at a press conference on the sidelines of the annual meetings of China's parliament, the National People's Congress.
"As soon as we have any more information, we will give it to you immediately," he added, noting that China's Foreign Ministry and related government agencies have activated an emergency response mechanism.
Authorities in Malaysia, Vietnam, China and Singapore are working together to locate the plane.
Chinese media said earlier that China had sent two ships to the South China Sea for search and rescue operations, as officials in Beijing scrambled to deal with one of the most serious aviation incidents involving its citizens.