BEIJING - Anguished next of kin of Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370 have demanded a speedy confirmation of whether a piece of wreckage found on a French island in the Indian Ocean belongs to the missing jetliner.
"We don't want to hear an official giving 99 per cent guarantee. We want 100 per cent confirmation!" they said in a statement posted on social media on Thursday afternoon.
"No matter where the wreckage is, what we are most concerned is the whereabouts of our loved ones. Did the plane land somewhere halfway? No one has confirmed even whether all the passengers had boarded the plane!"
In one of the world's biggest aviation mysteries, the MH370 flight vanished on Mar 8 last year shortly after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing and diverting from its flight route with 239 people on board. Among the 227 passengers were 153 Chinese nationals.
Since then, search and rescue efforts have taken place first in the South China Sea and then both east and west sides of the Indian Ocean. But they have produced no conclusive evidence of the plane's location and no lack of false alarms.
On Wednesday, a two-metre long wreckage, possibly from a wing part known as a flaperon, was found on a beach on the French island of Reunion by cleaners.
An unnamed US official was quoted as saying that investigators had a "high degree of confidence" that the barnacle-encrusted debris was of a wing component unique to the Boeing 777, the same model as the MAS plane. No other Boeing 777 is known to have gone missing at sea.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement on Thursday that the ministry was checking with the relevant countries.
Some relatives told The Straits Times that they were sceptical that the latest find was linked to the dreaded flight as they clinged on to the hope that their family members are still alive.
"Our hopes have been raised so many times only to be dashed," said Mr Jiang Hui, 41, a representative of the families' group. His mother Jiang Cuiyun, 71, was on the flight.
He said even if the wreckage does belong to MH370, it does not mean the plane had crashed there.
" We believe this is not an ordinary aviation mishap but the work of a conspiracy," said Mr Jiang.
"The plane could have landed elsewhere first and then met with mishap after flying again. Or the wreckage could have been intentionally discarded there to deceive us. We need to see all the evidence to know the true story."
Ms Yang Rong, 28, whose husband Wang Yongqiang, 29, was on the flight, was sceptical too, saying the wreckage was too far from the original flight path.
"There's also been so much fake news about MH370 being circulated and even officials cannot confirm that it's the plane," she told The Straits Times.
While no plans have been made to fly to the French island, she said family members are likely to do so if officials declare the wreckage to be part of MH370.
"We will need to see it to believe it. We cannot take their word for it after all that has happened. Till then, I'm hoping that it's not MH370 because I believe my husband is still alive. And until I see his body, I will not give up," said Ms Yang, whose husband worked as a construction worker in Singapore.
In their statement, the MH370 relatives also slammed the way the Malaysian government and the MAS have handled the investigations and their needs in the past year.
They urged the Malaysian side to restart the family support centre and to resume assistance in areas such as psychological counselling and reimbursement of expenses.