Missing airliner: Anguished wait for fate of beloved
Cries and tears swept through a hotel conference room in Beijing on Saturday as some 120 relatives and friends gathered for news of their loved ones aboard a missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines aircraft.
A young woman wept aloud while a female friend hugged her tightly. An elderly mother cried with anguish over the fate of her 40-year-old son, Xinhua reported.
Many relatives just sat on the floor. A woman leaned her head against a wall and looked deeply pained. She told Xinhua that her husband was on the plane and they had spoken by phone last night.
Flight MH 370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.21 a.m. local time Saturday and was scheduled to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. local time the same day but it lost contact with ground control two hours after take-off.
At the Lido Hotel in Beijing, many grief-stricken relatives even fainted and some were led to hotel rooms to take rest. Some said they would fly to Vietnam to look for their beloved.
The relatives and friends of the missing passengers were angry at Malaysia Airlines' handling of the case as it sent no staff to give them further information.
"My husband was on the plane and we had a young kid back at home. Our kid could not live without the father," said a woman from Tianjin while sobbing.
She occasionally spoke in Chinese and English with people around hoping for new updates. No airline staff showed up and she said she was infuriated with the lack of communication.
"Malaysia Airlines did not give us an explanation. It only gave us a piece of paper (a statement)," said another. "They only ordered us some water and bread. Here there are just some volunteers, with no airline staff having showed up."
More relatives and friends are still en route to the Lido Hotel, hoping for an update on the MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing, which was carrying 239 passengers and crew, including 154 Chinese.
A news briefing at another packed conference room at the hotel was postponed several times until 2.30 p.m. But a spokesperson from the airlines gave no further updates, simply reading a short statement that had already been released and saying they were still working to locate the plane.
Contact with the flight was lost along with its radar signal at 1.20 a.m. Beijing time Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.
An executive with a domestic airline company told Xinhua that aeroplanes normally have several sets of communication systems in operation at the same time and are required to be in contact with ground staff all the time to report their flight conditions, he said.
Only under extreme circumstances can there be a sudden loss of contact, he said.
"Even in cases of hijacking and extreme weather conditions, there is little chance of sudden loss of contact," he added.