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Thursday 18 September 2014

Plane families dismiss 'fund' talks

Published 20/04/2014 | 04:47

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Relatives of Chinese passengers on board the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 pray at a hotel conference room in Beijing (AP)

A Malaysian official has met with relatives of passengers who were aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and discussed ways of providing them with financial assistance, as an unmanned submarine continued its search for any signs of the jet.

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Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hamzah Zainuddin met the passengers' relatives in Kuala Lumpur to talk about where to go next. Financial assistance was discussed and family members were urged to submit a plan for consideration. He declined to elaborate further, but said a fund could possibly be set up by the government or Malaysia Airlines.

The relatives, however, expressed dissatisfaction with the meeting, saying in a statement that until "at least a tiny bit of concrete evidence" that the plane crashed is found, authorities should not try to settle the case with final pay-offs.

"No meaningful report on the progress of the investigation was given" at the meeting, the relatives said, adding that "not a single one" of their questions was answered.

Mr Zainuddin, who heads a committee overseeing the needs of the next of kin, said: "We realise this is an excruciating time for the families of those on board. No words can describe the pain they must be going through. We understand the desperate need for information on behalf of the families and those watching around the world."

He added that he would soon visit Beijing to shore up bilateral relations between Malaysia and China. Two-thirds of the missing plane's 227 passengers were Chinese, and many of their family members have been angered by Malaysia's handling of the investigation, with some accusing the government of lying, incompetence or participating in an outright cover-up.

After nearly a week of sweeping the bottom of the ocean with sonar, the unmanned sub began its eighth mission today. The yellow device has already covered about half of its focused search area, but has yet to uncover any clues that could shed light on the mysterious disappearance of the plane more than six weeks ago.

The US Navy's Bluefin 21 has journeyed beyond its recommended depth of 2.8 miles to comb the silt-covered seabed off the coast of western Australia. Its search area forms a 6-mile radius around the location of an underwater signal that was believed to have come from the aircraft's black boxes. The search centre said the sonar scan of the sea floor in that area was expected to be completed next week.

Up to 11 aircraft and 12 ships are continuing to scan the ocean surface for debris from the Boeing 777, which disappeared March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Radar and satellite data show the jet mysteriously veered far off course for unknown reasons and would have run out of fuel in the remote section of the southern Indian Ocean where the search has been focused. Not one piece of debris has been recovered since the massive multinational hunt began.

The search co-ordination centre has said the hunt for floating debris on the surface will continue for at least the next few days.

Press Association

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