Relatives demand Malaysia retract conclusion that MH370 'ended in Indian Ocean'
With no wreckage found, several relatives of mainland passengers aboard missing flight MH370 demanded yesterday for Malaysian officials to retract their statement that the plane had "ended in the southern Indian Ocean", as tension between the families and authorities escalated.
At a meeting with Malaysian official delegates at Beijing's Metropark Lido Hotel, about 200 angry relatives questioned Kuala Lumpur's conclusion that the plane had crashed in the Indian Ocean, leaving no survivors.
The delegation - which included Iskandar Sarudin, Malaysia's ambassador to China, along with an airline representative, an air marshal and air vice-marshal - explained the government's conclusions, but offered no additional information.
The representatives refused to answer family members' technical questions and instead said they would take those queries and concerns - including their demand for a retraction - to investigators in Kuala Lumpur.
One female family member told the Malaysian representatives that the plane's path depicted on British investigators' charts appeared not to match Malaysian military radar.
She also expressed doubts about the accuracy of calculations made by British satellite company Inmarsat, which, using a new method, estimated the plane's location. No debris has been found.
"Is there any possibility that the British organisation made a wrong conclusion as they are using the calculation method for the first time?" she asked.
Watch: Chinese relatives demand 'truth' over MH370 crash
Another relative said he blamed Malaysia's military for failing to communicate with the plane when it appeared on military radar. "If you ever made an inquiry to the pilot, all of us would not need to be here now," he said.
A Royal Malaysian Air Force lieutenant general whose name was not announced explained that the radar operator identified the craft as a friendly "blip", but added that the incident was under investigation.
Watch: MH370 relatives in China distraught as hope extinguished
Many relatives have pleaded with Malaysian officials to intensify their search efforts. The delegation said the search had been beefed up southwest of Perth, Australia. "We still have not ruled out hijacking. We have not ruled out any scenario," the ambassador, said.
Family members also said they were furious that volunteer counsellors initially sent by Malaysia Airlines had not visited the hotel since Monday. Airline CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya had said 700 volunteers would offer support and counselling to relatives around the clock.
An airline representative said Beijing had advised Malaysian volunteers to stay away from the hotel for their safety.
"This was because the situation was out of control after the announcement was made on Monday night," he said.
Some mainland family members in Kuala Lumpur were trying to persuade other relatives in Beijing to fly to the Malaysian capital to press for answers on the missing plane.
"The Malaysian government is afraid of organised, influential protests by us because the media from across the world is here," said Li Peng, a relative from China who flew to Kuala Lumpur. About a dozen mainland relatives flew there after the plane disappeared on March 8.
In Hong Kong, more than 100 people - some who knew passengers on the missing flight - have sought help from a local counselling charity.
Post Crisis Counselling Network executive director Timothy To Wing-ching said a hotline would serve employees at three multinational firms. Staff there knew some passengers.
In addition, four crisis counsellors are scheduled to answer calls from the public from 10am to 6pm until April 30. The number is 5181 5501.
Additional reporting by Danny Mok