Angry relatives of lost 370 victims demand answers

Updated: 2014-03-25 12:28

By Michael Barris in New York (China Daily USA)

  Print Mail Large Medium  Small 分享按钮 0

It was the news that families of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 didn't want to hear.

And when Malaysia's prime minister announced that the plane had gone down in the southern Indian Ocean and nobody among the 229 passengers, 155 of them Chinese, had survived, there were screams, cries and disbelief.

"My son! My son!" yelled a woman who collapsed to her knees, tears streaming down her face. She was among family members in Beijing who had been called to Metropark Lido hotel's near the capital's airport to hear the announcement. They soon filed out, in heart-wrenching grief.

The missing jet has consumed the world's attention and a multinational force of planes, ships and satellites for 17 days. Search teams from 26 nations have pored over radar data and searched a wide swath of Asia for weeks but no confirmed wreckage has been found.

Some of the grief-stricken relatives were wheeled from the briefing room on stretchers, and one group of relatives smashed the lens of a reporter's camera, CNN reported.

Meanwhile, with the location of Flight 370 itself still unknown, the US Navy sent a black-box locator on a ship to the site to find the plane's flight recorder, the Department of Defense said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced the news Monday night in a statement to reporters in Kuala Lumpur. The information, he said, was based on a study of data from a satellite that had received the final known signals from the plane as it tracked southward.

The data indicated that the jetliner flew "to a remote location, far from any possible landing sites," Razak said."It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean."

In a statement to the families, Malaysia Airlines said: "We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain."

Investigators have not ruled out mechanical failure, hijacking, sabotage, terrorism or issues related to the mental health of the pilots or someone else on board.

Now the hunt for the plane's wreckage and the black box aboard it that might give some hint of what happened is a race against time because the battery life of the "pinger" in the black box may have less than two weeks left.

David Gallo, an undersea black-box search expert who co-led the search for downed Air France Flight 447 off the coast of Brazil in 2011, called the MH 370 case "extremely unusual because there has been no confirmed evidence of the plane at all."

Gallo directs special projects for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a nonprofit Massachusetts marine-science facility that is not involved in searching for the Malaysian airliner. The potential MH370 search area is "much larger" than it was in the Air France 447 search operation, Gallo said.

The Air France 447 search area was "very remote, the sea very deep, and the seafloor was very rugged and mountainous," Gallo said in an email to China Daily. "The search area was as deep as 4,000 meters and spread out over 5,000 square miles."

However, the researcher said: "We have excellent undersea search technology. I am confident if we find some debris on the sea surface, the remains of the (Malaysian) plane can be found."

In their analysis of satellite data, Inmarsat, the UK satellite telecom company, and the British Accidents Investigation Branch determined the plane's last known location by following automated hourly pings it sent out from an onboard terminal. The investigation established that Flight 370 continued to fly for at least five hours after leaving Malaysian airspace, and had flown along one of two corridors - one arcing north and the other south, the UK Telegraph newspaper reported.

"We looked at the Doppler effect, which is the change in frequency, due to the movement of a satellite in orbit," Chris McLaughlin, Inmarsat's senior vice president of external affairs was quoted as saying. The information was relayed to Malaysian officials by March 12 but Malaysia's government did not publicly acknowledge it until March 15, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The passengers included 20 employees of Texas-based Freescale Semiconductor - engineers or specialists involved in projects to streamline and cut costs at manufacturing operations in China and Malaysia.

(China Daily USA 03/25/2014 page1)