|A press conference is held by the Malaysia Airlines at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, capital of China, March 8, 2014. A Malaysian passenger plane carrying 239 people has lost contact with air traffic control in the early morning on Saturday on its way from Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A total of 154 Chinese nationals were onboard the plane, including one infant and one from Taiwan. (Xinhua/Luo Xiaoguang)|
BEIJING, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Cries and tears grip a hotel conference room in Beijing on Saturday as some 120 relatives and friends gathered in hope of further news on their beloved ones aboard a missing Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines aircraft.
A young woman wept aloud while a female friend hugged her tightly. An elderly mother cried with anguish over the unknown fate of her 40-year-old son.
Some have sobbed for hours and some sat in chairs making silent prayers.
Many relatives just sat on the floor. A woman leaned his head against a wall and looked deeply pained. She told Xinhua that her husband was on the plane and they had spoken by phone last night.
An elderly man cried in the corridor and his son and another woman stood beside patting his shoulders. "Dad, it will be OK," the son said. "It will be fine. Heard the plane has made emergency landing and let's pray," said the woman.
Some grief-stricken relatives even fainted and some were led to hotel rooms to take rest. Some said they would fly to Vietnam for news on their beloved.
The relatives and friends of the missing passengers were angry at Malaysia Airlines' handling of the case it sent no staff to give them further information.
"My husband was on the plane and we had a young kid back at home. Our kid could not live without father," said a woman from Tianjin while sobbing.
She occasionally spoke in Chinese and English with people around hoping for new updates. No airline staff showed up and she said she was infuriated with the lack of communication.
"The Malaysia Airlines did not give us an explanation. It only gave us a piece of paper (a statement)," said another. "They only ordered us some water and bread. Here there are just some volunteers, with no airline staff having showed up."
A news briefing at another packed conference room at the hotel was postponed several times until 2:30 p.m.. But a spokesperson from the airlines gave no further updates, simply reading a short statement that had already been released and saying they were still working to locate the plane.
The MH370 flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing was carrying 239 passengers and crew from 14 countries and regions, including 154 Chinese.
Contact with the flight was lost along with its radar signal at 1:20 a.m. Beijing time on Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.
The Boeing 777-200 aircraft left the Malaysian capital at 00:41 a.m. (Beijing Time) on Saturday, and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. the same day, according to Malaysia Airlines.
An executive with a domestic airline company told Xinhua that aeroplanes normally have several sets of communication systems in operation at the same time and are required to be in contact with ground staff all the time to report their flight conditions, he said.
Only under extreme circumstances can there be a sudden loss of contact, he said. "Even in cases of hijacking and extreme weather conditions, there is little chance of sudden loss of contact."
Chinese President Xi Jinping has ordered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as Chinese embassies and consulates overseas to strengthen contact with departments of relevant countries and pay close attention to the search and rescue work for the missing plane.
Premier Li Keqiang also instructed the government to intensify communication and contact with civil aviation agencies of Malaysia, urging them to intensify the search effort.
The Chinese Ministry of Transport announced the launch of the highest-degree emergency response mechanism.
The Civil Aviation Administration of China demanded its air traffic management office keep in touch with its Malaysian counterpart, and ordered Beijing Capital International Airport to comfort relatives and friends waiting anxiously for the arrival of the missing flight.
The news stirred the public and many made prayers on popular social media services.
A list of missing passengers has been circulating widely in China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo service, where netizens send their prayers and support.
"Let's pray for all the passengers on board. We are waiting for your safe landing," posted an Internet user under the screen name of "Xingzhe Chengzi."
"MH370, if you can hear us, please keep flying until you reach the destination. Dear friends, now the temperature in Beijing is 5 degrees Celsius, a little bit cold. Please wear your coats to keep warm," wrote a post in popular instant messaging tool WeChat.
Malaysia Airlines operates in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and on the route between Europe and Australia. It has 15 Boeing 777-200 planes in its fleet.
On July 6, 2013, another Boeing 777-200 operated by Asiana Airlines, a carrier based in the Republic of Korea, crashed on the route between Seoul Incheon International Airport and San Francisco International Airport while attempting to land. Three Chinese female students were killed and more than 180 people were injured.