Beijing, March 24.
A message from the Malaysian airlines and that one word “ended” from prime minister Najib Razak late evening Monday extinguished the thinnest hope for a miracle family members of the lost flight’s passengers were latching on to after 17 days of an agonising wait.
“Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived,” the text message purportedly read.
“As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean,” it added.
There were scenes of impending despair at the Lido hotel in Beijing hotel where many family members of the 154 Chinese passengers on board the MH370 flight were staying; some had flown to Kuala Lumpur during the last two weeks.
Approximately, 200 family members and friends crowded a conference room in the Lido hotel to hear Razak deliver his statement.
They latched on to every word he said.
Soon, the enormity of the statement begun to sink in.
Razak said new analysis of satellite data suggested that the missing MH370 flight had “ended” in the southern Indian Ocean.
“Based on their new analysis, Inmarsat and the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) have concluded that MH370 flew along the southern corridor, and that its last position was in the middle of the Indian Ocean, west of Perth,” said Najib.
As his brief statement got over and as he said that the flight had crashed into the Indian Ocean with no survivors, the initial groans of disbelief became screams and shrieks of despair and rage.
Many held on to their next one like those drowning holds onto a straw.
One women collapsed, crying, “my son, my son”.
The end of the press statement triggered commotion in the hotel. Many complained that the Malaysian government and airlines were hiding more information.
Reports said few family members had emotional breakdowns; some had to be taken away to nearest hospital after they collapsed.
Some family members, holed up in the hotel for 17 days with only credible information coming their way only sporadically, reacted violently, bashing chairs against the floor. Many collapsed on the floor, sobbing and screaming at the authorities.
Some shouted at the officials of the Malaysian airlines; reporters were screamed at and some had their mobile phones snatched and water poured on them by the family members.
Many among the passengers were the only children of their parents because of China’s single child policy.
A cell phone message to Malay Mukherjee, whose son Muktesh and Chinese daughter-in-law were among the passengers, did not get any response.
As the family members now begin to grapple with the reality that their dear ones are no longer alive, it is also true that the case is far from nearing closure. It will probably take several days, even months to recover the debris of the aircraft and remains of the passengers – if any is found at all.
The focus will now be also on the reason behind the aircraft taking a route far away from its intended one: How could a flight which was bound for Beijing crash into the southern Indian Ocean thousands and thousands of kilometers away?
Victor Zhikai Gao, director of the China National Association of International Studies, told national broadcaster, CCTV that the focus should be find out the reasons behind the crash.
Gao urged the Malaysian authorities to ensure a good closure of the incident for the family members of the victims of the crash.