KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Relatives of missing MH370 passengers said the downing of a Malaysia Airlines jet in Ukraine was no mere coincidence, adding on Friday that it lends weight to their harsh criticism of the carrier.
Flight MH17, a Boeing 777-200, went down in strife-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday carrying 298 passengers and crew, mostly Dutch citizens.
Vocal relatives of passengers on MH370, which went missing in March, have repeatedly accused the airline and Malaysian government of withholding information and of suspicious conduct in handling the probe into the disaster.
Ms Sarah Bajc, partner of American passenger Philip Wood, said "it was only a matter of time" that a new tragedy hit the struggling flag carrier because "when symptoms of a disease are ignored, the disease festers".
US officials said MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, a possible casualty of a violent rebellion by pro-Russian insurgents.
"Another (Malaysia Airlines) flight has gone down. Another 777... Far too much coincidence for the two situations to not be linked in some way," Ms Bajc said in an e-mail to AFP.
"How do we know a similar thing didn't happen to MH370?" she said.
Flight MH370 vanished March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people onboard, about two-thirds of them Chinese citizens.
The Boeing 777-400 is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, but an extensive search has turned up no sign of wreckage so far, leaving frustrated and anguished families alleging a cover-up.
Mr Stephen Wang, leader of a group of relatives of Chinese passengers on MH370, said the latest tragedy has stirred deep sympathy among them for the pain felt by MH17 relatives.
"That the same airline can suffer these incidents is very upsetting," said Wang, whose 57-year-old mother was on MH370.
Malaysian national Intan Maizura Othman, who gave birth two months after losing her fellow MAS flight attendant husband on MH370, said her tears "still pouring for hubby" were now flowing for her friends on MH17 as well.
"How you expect me to fly??? I think I will hang my uniform very soon," she said on Twitter.
Malaysia Airlines and the country's government have defended the use of the flight path over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, saying international air travel authorities had deemed the route secure.
However, South Korea's two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia's Qantas said they all rerouted flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea, triggering the strife in Ukraine.