SYDNEY (REUTERS) - The first funeral service for passengers from a missing Malaysian jetliner will be held in Australia this weekend, nearly eight weeks after the plane disappeared and apparently crashed in the remote southern Indian Ocean.
Despite the most intensive air, sea and underwater search in commercial aviation history, no trace of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has been found since it vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8.
Family and friends of Rod and Mary Burrows, two of six Australians on board the flight, will be holding a formal memorial in Brisbane on Sunday, according to a statement on behalf of the family released by police on Friday.
"Family and friends send their appreciation for the well wishes from the media and public but ask for privacy and request their solitude be respected during this difficult time," said the statement.
Relatives of those on board, mostly from China, have repeatedly expressed their anger and frustration at the lack of information and evidence about the loss of their loved ones.
Malaysia Airlines this week urged families who have remained in Kuala Lumpur to return home, saying they would be kept informed, and pledged to pay early compensation to those who qualified.
On Thursday, Malaysia released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to missing Flight MH370, detailing the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and the confusion that followed. The preliminary report, however, left many key questions unanswered, including whether the aircraft was deliberately diverted after communications were disabled.
Using groundbreaking analysis of satellite data, experts narrowed down the search area to a large arc of the Indian Ocean some 1,600 km north-west of the west Australian city of Perth. But after weeks of scouring millions of square kilometres without finding any sign of debris, Australian authorities have called off the air and surface search.
Australia now plans to contract commercial companies to undertake a sonar search of a 60,000 sq km area of seabed that could take eight months or more at a cost of about A$60 million (S$70 million).