News / Asia

Chinese Passengers' Relatives Demand Answers

A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she holds a banner in front of journalists reading 'We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth and delaying the rescue. Release our families unconditionally!"  at a hotel in Sepang, Malaysia, Mar. 19, 2014.
A Chinese relative of passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane cries as she holds a banner in front of journalists reading 'We are against the Malaysian government for hiding the truth and delaying the rescue. Release our families unconditionally!" at a hotel in Sepang, Malaysia, Mar. 19, 2014.
VOA News
Frustration over the lack of progress in the search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jet erupted Wednesday at a daily news conference, where Chinese relatives of missing passengers confronted Malaysian officials.

The grieving families burst into the room where the media briefing was to be held, yelling and holding a banner demanding Malaysia "tell the truth" about what happened to the plane that has been missing since March 8.

One unidentified woman directed her frustration at a Malaysia Airlines official.

"Every day I'm confronted by your boring questions, I'm facing you everyday, I'm fed up with it. I know you know we can do nothing but vent our anger and cry, we can do nothing to you. Aside from lying, deceiving, you have been playing the gangster," she said.

Two-thirds of the plane's 227 passengers were Chinese. Many of their families have become increasingly angry about what they feel is contradictory or confusing information released by Malaysia. Some have even threatened a hunger strike.

Malaysian security forces forcibly removed the wailing Chinese relatives from the room and blocked the entrance, as scores of international and local media recorded the incident.

Once the news conference began, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said authorities were "trying our very best" to locate the plane and to narrow the search area, which now covers more than seven million square kilometers.

The minister, who is leading the multinational operation, said he understands emotions are high. He said Malaysia was sending another high-level delegation to Beijing to explain more details of the search.

Hishammuddin disclosed that some data was deleted from the flight simulator found in the home of the plane's pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, and that forensic experts were trying to restore it. He stressed that no evidence has been found that implicates Zaharie in any wrongdoing.

  • Mike Barton, rescue coordination chief, right, shows Australia's Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, the map of the Indian Ocean search areas during a tour of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's rescue coordination center in Canberra, March 23, 2014.
  • Royal Australian Air Force pilot Capt. Russell Adams, left, speaks to the media after returning from a search mission in an AP-3C Orion at Pearce Base, Perth, Australia, March 23, 2014.
  • Ground crew members wave to a Japanese Maritime Defense Force P3C patrol plane as it leaves the Royal Malaysian Air Force base heading for Australia to join a search and rescue operation for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, Subang, Malaysia, March 23, 2014.
  • Royal Australian Air Force commander Craig Heap speaks to the media after Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's P-3C Orion arrived to help with search operations for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, at Pearce Base in Perth, Australia, March 23, 2014.
  • Royal Australian Air Force Loadmasters prepare to launch a Self Locating Data Marker Buoy from a C-130J Hercules aircraft over the southern Indian Ocean, March 20, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / AUSTRALIAN DEFENSE/LEADING SEAMAN JUSTIN BROWN)
  • John Young, general manager of the emergency response division of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, answers a question as he stands in front of a diagram showing the search area for flight MH370 during a briefing in Canberra, March 20, 2014.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force pilot steers his AP-3C Orion over the southern Indian Ocean during the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the Australian Defense Force, March 20, 2014.
  • A Chinese family member of a passenger onboard missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 screams as she is being brought into a room outside the media conference area at a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 19, 2014.
  • An image in support of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is seen on the United Malays National Organisation building in Kuala Lumpur, March 19, 2014.
  • Students watch as a group of artists finish a piece based on the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that was painted on a school ground in Makati city, metro Manila, Philippines, March 17, 2014.

U.S. law enforcement officials say investigators searching the flight simulator and e-mails of the pilots of the airliner have failed to find evidence that either Zaharie or copilot Fariq Abdul Hamid purposely steered the flight away from its destination.

One of the U.S. officials said authorities were trying to learn whether Zaharie might have been training on the simulator on how to disable transponders and other in-flight devices ahead of takeoff from Kuala Lumpur.  Investigators were also seeking to learn whether he had practiced flight patterns taking the plane away from its destination.

The two U.S. law enforcement officials spoke Tuesday after being briefed by Malaysian authorities. They were quoted in the Los Angeles Times.

'Completely over their heads'

Scott Hamilton of the U.S.-based aviation consulting firm Leeham & Company told VOA the Malaysian government appeard to be "completely over their heads" with the investigation.

"They've probably never had anything even remotely like this to deal with. [They] didn't know what to do with it, didn't know how to deal with the pressure from the Chinese government, which of course was very immense given the number of Chinese on the airplane. You had one agency of the government saying one thing, you've had another agency saying something contradictory. I just think they've been totally over their heads on this," he said.

Political science professor James Chin with Australia's Monash University agreed that the situation was unprecedented for Malaysian authorities.

"Part of the reason is that the Malaysians don't have any experience with this sort of issue, and also secondly because the Malaysians are very cautious about giving information. Almost information they have they always want to double check it. And unfortunately living in today's age where social media is present at all times, this sort of time luxury does not exist for Malaysian authorities," he said.

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The airliner, bound for Beijing with 239 people aboard, vanished over Southeast Asia March 8, triggering the largest missing airplane search in aviation history. Investigators believe it was deliberately diverted, either south toward the Indian Ocean or north toward Central Asia.

Hishammuddin said he could rule out reports that the plane was spotted in the Maldives, an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Eyewitnesses have reported seeing a low-flying aircraft around the time the plane went missing.

He also said background checks on all but three of the plane's passengers have yielded "no information of significance." Authorities are still waiting for background reports on two Ukrainian passengers and one Russian aboard the flight.

Authorities have so far refused to rule out any possibility, including terrorism, hijacking, a mechanical malfunction or pilot suicide.

 

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: mimi from: cebu
March 19, 2014 9:57 AM
despite the uncertainty of the S.A.R. of MH370, it is really comforting to know that at crisis like this, nations are helping each other..Putting aside differences and conflicts makes me believe that humans are innately good...God please give us wisdom in searching the missing plane..May you bless the works of the hands of the people who are sincerely missing the aircraft...Keep the faith everyone...


by: meanbill from: USA
March 19, 2014 9:36 AM
THE WISE MAN said it; ... If only China had expanded it's (ADIZ),
LOOK for the person in the control tower who got the message from the hijacked plane, (Alright) meaning hijack plan in progress, and (Good night), meaning all plane radio communications now off..
LOOK for the person in the control tower who called somebody else, (right after that message), to radio a ship to lay down the oil slick, to throw off and conceal the search for flight 370..
LOOK for the plane in a large hanger on a big airbase, being repainted for a clandestine operation against a nuclear site somewhere? ..... REALLY

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