Monday 18 November 2019

Victims' families don't believe wreckage is part of missing jet

Bao Lanfang (C), whose son, daughter-in-law and 3-year-old granddaughter were aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, kneels down in front of media before she and other family members express their demands to Malaysia Airlines outside its Beijing office yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Bao Lanfang (C), whose son, daughter-in-law and 3-year-old granddaughter were aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, kneels down in front of media before she and other family members express their demands to Malaysia Airlines outside its Beijing office yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Julie Vanderbelt in Beijing

Chinese relatives of passengers aboard missing flight MH370 have expressed anger and disbelief after Malaysia's prime minister said wreckage found on a French Indian Ocean island was from the plane.

Most of the passengers aboard the flight were Chinese and around a dozen bereaved relatives gathered outside the Beijing offices of Malaysia Airlines, with emotions running high.

"I don't believe this latest information about the plane; they have been lying to us from the beginning," said Zhang Yongli, whose daughter was on board.

"I know my daughter is out there, but they won't tell us the truth."

Bao Lanfang, whose son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were on the plane, told reporters "Everyone has been lying to us", before collapsing on the floor and crying.

"I will do anything to see them again," the 63-year-old added through her tears. "Just tell me what I need to do, I'll do it."

The flight, with 239 people on board, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in March last year.

No evidence had been found until the debris, part of a wing, washed up on the French territory of Reunion, and Najib Razak, the Malaysian prime minister, said yesterday it was from the airliner.

Mr Razak announced that the part came from the doomed aircraft, but authorities in France, the US and Australia have stopped short of full confirmation.


The conflicting comments infuriated many families of those on board the plane, who have waited more than 500 days for concrete clues into the fates of their loved ones.

Dai Shuqin, the sister of one of the passengers, was among about a dozen Chinese relatives who held a demonstration outside Malaysia Airlines' offices in Beijing.

"France is being cautious about it, but Malaysia is desperate to put an end to this case and run away from all responsibilities," she said.

The disappearance of the Boeing 777 jetliner while on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014 has been one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

Officials believe it crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board, but the wreckage and the cause remain elusive.

The French territory is thousands of kilometres west of the area being searched for wreckage from the flight.

At a news conference in Paris, deputy prosecutor Serge Mackowiak declined to confirm that the debris belonged to Flight 370, though he said there were strong indications that it did.

"The very strong conjectures are to be confirmed by complementary analysis that will begin tomorrow morning," Mr Mackowiak said.

"The experts are conducting their work as fast as they can in order to give complete and reliable information as quickly as possible."

The Australian government, which is leading the seabed search for wreckage west of Australia, was also less certain than Malaysia, saying only that "based on high probability, it is MH370".

Privately, there were questions about why Mr Najib had moved forward with the statement before all countries had agreed. An Australian government official said Malaysia was not supposed to make the announcement, and had gone out on its own making a conclusive statement before getting the evidence to back it up.

Ross Tapsell, a Malaysia expert at the Australian National University, said he suspected that Mr Najib was trying to distract Malaysians from a corruption scandal. On Monday, Malaysia's anti-corruption agency said that $700m in Mr Najib's personal bank accounts came from donations, not from a debt-ridden state investment fund.

"He's under so much political pressure at the moment," Mr Tapsell said. "I presume if he can try to move the conversation back to the MH370 stuff, it's in his interests to do so."

Australia, which sent an official to France to help examine the debris, has said the find will not affect its sonar search of a 120,000sq km expanse of seabed more than 4,000km east of Reunion Island. That search has covered almost half that area without finding any clues.

It is not known why Flight 370 - less than an hour into its journey - turned back from its original path and headed in an opposite direction before turning left and flying south over the Indian Ocean for hours.

A six-week air and sea search covering 4.6 million square kilometres of the southern Indian Ocean surface last year failed to find any trace of the jetliner. The Reunion Island debris would support the working theory that the jet went down in the Indian Ocean and the debris was carried by the current.

Malaysian officials have said the plane's movements were consistent with deliberate actions by someone on the plane, suggesting someone in the cockpit intentionally flew the aircraft off course.

But yesterday French officials used more cautious language, saying only that there was a "very high probability" the wreckage came from MH370.

Many Chinese relatives of MH370 passengers have consistently expressed beliefs that their loved ones were alive, perhaps being held at an unknown location, despite mounting evidence of a fatal crash.

On a social media group, other relatives expressed similar sentiments, saying: "Don't believe them! They must have switched the debris! We do believe all our relatives will come back safe and sound!"

Irish Independent

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