March 26, 2014 08:03
The rage and frustration of Chinese families of those on board flight MH370 spilled out onto the streets of Beijing Tuesday as mothers, fathers, daughters and sons rallied outside the Malaysian Embassy. The Chinese government is also calling for the truth and has demanded Malaysia turn over all satellite information used in Monday's determination that the plane most likely crashed in the Southern Indian Ocean.
In a rare public show of defiance, dozens of angry relatives demanded Malaysia tell them the whole truth about what happened to the flight and said they would not give up until they saw their loved ones again.
Walking through Beijing's new Embassy district they shouted, "Malaysia lies! Give us back our loved ones!"
"They are hiding information. Everything they say turns out to be false, nothing is true or correct and that's why we're here," one woman said.
Protests are rare in China, especially in the country's capital, but authorities allowed it to go on apparently out of sympathy for the passengers' families.
◆ Emotions Run High
Police originally planned to bus relatives quietly to the doorstep of the Malaysian Embassy, but in the end families refused and walked from the Lido Hotel where they have been staying to Malaysia's representative office.
Onlookers reacted with curiosity as the families marched through Beijing's city streets. The rally was peaceful, although emotions ran high.
"Malaysia is worse than dogs or pigs" protestors shouted. Later, one man called for the Chinese government to come forward, but was quickly told by others to not say that.
It was clear from the start that the march was highly organized with relatives wearing matching shirts and carrying pre-printed placards. But many had more to say. Some wrote messages on their shirts, such as the Chinese character for hate.
As the march began to attract crowds, police angrily kept protesters away from onlookers. Reporters were forced to remain behind police tape at angles that made it difficult to film straight ahead shots.
But despite protests of family members, Malaysia Airlines insists it is doing all it can. When asked Tuesday whether he should resign, the company CEO responded "that's a decision for later."
◆ Search Area Narrows
Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein says British analysis of data the plane transmitted during its final hours has again reduced the search area for the Boeing 777.
Late Tuesday the minister said he is more optimistic about locating the aircraft's last known position in the Southern Indian Ocean.
"All search efforts are now focused in the southern part of the southern corridor in an area covering some 469,407 square nautical miles and this is against 2.24 million square nautical miles which was announced on 18th March," he explained. "We are currently working to further narrow down the search area."
Authorities have now ended searches elsewhere, after concluding that the plane was southwest of Perth, Australia when it ended its flight. However, investigators have not yet pinpointed the final location of the aircraft.
Ships and aircraft from Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and the United States have been scouring the region, facing heavy weather in recent days. No search aircraft flew Tuesday, and ships in the region had to move away from heavy seas, but searching is expected to resume Wednesday. Two more planes from Korea and six Chinese ships are expected to soon join the search effort.
According to Australian Defense Minister David Johnston, the search area is an extremely challenging environment.
"Remember -- this part of the world, this Southern Ocean has shipwrecked many many sailors in our history in Western Australian. It is rough, sea state 7, there are 20, 30 meter waves, it is very dangerous, even for Panamax-class [very large container ships] ships," he said.
Satellites and planes have spotted possible debris from the aircraft, but so far there has been no confirmed discovery of any pieces.
◆ Malaysia Airlines Defends Effort
In Kuala Lumpur, executives of Malaysia Airlines held a news conference defending their efforts to keep family members informed. They said they have given $5,000 to the next of kin for each passenger and are preparing to offer additional money. They also defended Monday's decision to inform families and the world that the Malaysian authorities now consider the flight lost.
"Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that in the incredibly short amount of time available to us that families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families, or by telephone, using SMS as a last resort of ensuring fully that nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media."
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 less than an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing, with 239 passengers and crew. One-hundred-fifty-three passengers were Chinese.
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