Relatives of flight MH370 angry over order to quit Beijing hotel
Provincial officials sent to Lido Hotel to persuade families they should return home
Malaysia Airlines' decision to shut down assistance centres set up for relatives of passengers aboard missing flight 370 has left the families angry and confused.
Yesterday, family members were asked to check out of the Lido Hotel in Beijing, where at least 100 police and several ambulances were on stand-by in case of trouble.
"Why did they ask us to leave so suddenly? Why couldn't they have given us five or six more days?" a woman from Henan province asked.
A receptionist at the hotel said a large number of relatives had checked out by late afternoon.
On Thursday, the Malaysian government released a preliminary report on flight MH370, which disappeared on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board. It showed air traffic controllers took 17 minutes to notice the disappearance and four hours for officials to declare a search-and-rescue mission.
"That's why I think this is a political issue," said a Tianjin woman whose boyfriend was on board the flight. "Why else would it take them four hours to start the search?"
A search of the southern Indian Ocean where the Boeing 777 is believed to have gone down has found no sign of the airliner.
At a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, Malaysian acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said France took more than six hours to declare a rescue mission after Air France flight 447 went missing over the Atlantic in 2009. But, he said, the investigation team would still look into the issue.
That will come as little comfort to relatives.
"It is torture," said Nan Kaijun, a Shandong native whose brother-in-law was on board the plane. "If we go home, who are we going to direct our questions to? Who will update us on new developments?"
Provincial officials have been at the hotel trying to persuade relatives to return home, as well as offering temporary accommodation in Beijing if they wish to stay.
Bian Zengchao, a village-level official from Hebei , said he and nine other officials were told to escort three family members home. "We are worried about them," Bian said.
A woman from Henan, whose elder brother was on board the plane, said officials from her village had travelled to the hotel and pressured her to leave.
The Beijing Lawyer's Association has assembled 71 lawyers to provide free legal services. They will negotiate compensation.
Malaysia Airlines will begin to distribute US$50,000 to each family next week, but some relatives may not accept it yet.
"Accepting the money and signing with the lawyers would mean I accept that he's dead," the Tianjin woman said. "I'm not ready to do that yet."