STUNNED relatives in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur reacted with grief and anguish as Malaysia confirmed their worst fears by announcing that missing flight MH370 had gone down in the Indian Ocean.
In dramatic scenes in Beijing, stretcher-bearing paramedics were drafted in to tend to family members devastated by the news, which was broken to them by the airline at a hotel where they had gathered throughout the 17-day ordeal.
At least two people were borne out on stretchers, including a woman whose body was shaking, her eyes glazed and heavy with tears, as a family member held her arm.
Cries of deep pain rang out as relatives burst forth, sobbing uncontrollably, while the news left others appearing disoriented, with one man lying on the floor holding his head.
One Chinese relative who spoke to AFP by phone said: “We know we have no hope left now.” Two-thirds of passengers were from China.
Both Malaysia Airlines and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak confirmed on Monday that the ill-fated flight, which disappeared on March 8 with 227 passengers and 12 crew, “ended in the southern Indian Ocean.” The conclusion was based on new satellite analysis of the Boeing 777’s path. Malaysia’s government had previously held out increasingly dim hopes of finding survivors.
In the lobby of a hotel outside Kuala Lumpur where relatives, including many flown in from China by Malaysia Airlines, had gathered, an elderly woman sat down hard on the floor and wept.
“He died too young, I want my son back,” she cried out in Mandarin before security escorted her into an elevator.
Subramaniam Gurusamy, 60, whose 34-year-old Malaysian son Puspanathan Gurusamy was on board, had continued to hold out hope of his return throughout the agonising 17-day wait.
“I had the belief that my son would return home safely. But what can be done? This is fate. We must accept it,” he told AFP, choking back tears.
– ‘They are murderers’ –
Some relatives in Beijing lashed out as they left their meeting with the Malaysian flag carrier, with one man throwing punches and kicks at assembled media.
One woman left the room shouting “Murderers! Murderers” and crying uncontrollably as she was held by two other family members, while another swiped at cameramen with her handbag, shouting “Get away!” At about 2am a group of around 30 relatives came out of the room to meet waiting reporters.
“The Malaysian government, Malaysian Airlines and the Malaysian armed forces are the real murderers who have killed our loved ones,” a man said, appearing to read from a prepared statement on a laptop on behalf of the group.
“The relatives of the passengers launch the strongest protest and condemnation” against them, he added.
The man also said the relatives would use “all possible means” to protest. As the Lido Hotel emptied, a small number of relatives appeared to refuse to accept that their loved ones had died.
“The rational mind sometimes gives way to the emotional mind, and there are some who are still not letting go,” a psychologist who was speaking to families told AFP.
For Sarah Bajc, partner of American passenger Philip Wood, the announcement brought “no real closure” in the absence of confirmed wreckage.
“I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along,” she said in an emailed message.
In others, the power of denial remained strong. One distraught woman in Beijing approached reporters saying she believed her daughter was being “hidden”, and had not died.
Malaysian Maira Nari, the teenage daughter of Chief Steward Andrew Nari, and who has captured hearts in her country with poignant and hopeful tweets calling for her father’s return, put on a brave face.
“God loves you more, daddy…. God loves them more,” she tweeted. “I will never forget the look on his face when he opened his birthday present the other day. He was so happy!” she added.
On China’s hugely popular Weibo microblogging site, a succession of electronic “candles” were lit in tribute to the dead.
“I just can’t believe it nor accept it, after having searched so many days, and waited so many days, only to finally receive news of the crash!” wrote one user.