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Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: Chaos at first meeting with Chinese officials as families of MH370 passengers demand answers

Published on Mar 10, 2014 3:03 PM
 

A meeting in Beijing between Chinese officials and family members of passengers on board the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 flight ended hastily on Monday, with not many answers but lots of anger.

Four officials from the foreign and transport ministries, and the Civil Aviation Administration of China met on Monday afternoon with more than 200 family members at the Metropark Lido hotel near the airport.

Trying to assure them, the officials said their agencies have "dropped everything" to focus on the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing MH370 flight, which has gone missing since early Saturday.

Among the 239 passengers and crew on board are 153 Chinese nationals.

But soon, chaos ensued as families frustrated at the perceived lack of help from the Chinese government in searching for their loved ones started heckling at the officials in what is believed to be the first contact between the Chinese government and the affected families.

One shouted: "Where have you been all this while?"

Another yelled: "Tell us what are the chances of survival for the passengers!"

Reports of two passengers using stolen passports have stoked fears of the plane possibly falling to a terrorist hijacking attempt, though neither China nor Malaysia officials have confirmed it.

Some family members on Monday demanded a straight answer from the officials whether it was a hijacking attempt and for the government to expand their search-and-rescue efforts on land too, instead of focusing only on the waters near Vietnam where the plane is believed to have crashed.

That is because some of them could dial through to the numbers of the passengers, proving that the phones are on land, not at sea.

Officials replied that there are no signs yet of terrorism at play.

After 25 minutes, the officials beat a hasty retreat from the meeting room, despite heightened heckling from the family members ordering them to stay.

One woman shouted in Mandarin "wu neng de zheng fu!", which means "useless government".

China has sent nine naval ships to search for the plane and also despatched officials from various ministries to assist in family members travelling to Malaysia and also to investigate the stolen passports.

rchang@sph.com.sg

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