More than 100 days have now passed since the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared with 239 people on board, sparking the most extensive search effort in aviation history.
The families of those missing still have no clues as to the fate of their loved-ones, and amid the confusion and conspiracy theories maintain hope that they might yet be alive.
But the 100-day landmark is a bleak reminder of how unlikely those hopes are. It was marked by more than 30 Chinese relatives on Sunday, who visited a Buddhist temple in Beijing to pray for the passengers’ return.
The Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak marked the day by tweeting his sympathies for the families. He wrote: “On this hundredth day since #MH370 went missing, remembering those on-board & their families. Malaysia remains committed to the search effort.”
Ahmad Jauhari, the CEO of Malaysia Airlines, issued a statement saying it has been “the longest and most painful 100 days” in the carrier’s history.
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
In pictures: Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burns incense as he prays at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Family members of passengers aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 burn incense to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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A family member of a passenger aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 comforts another relative as they gather to pray at Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they gather at the Lama Temple in Beijing. Chinese relatives marked 100 days since the plane went missing on a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Beijing by offering prayers and burning incense at the buddhist temple
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Relatives of passengers on missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 offer prayers at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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A Chinese relative of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 prays at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Chinese relatives of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 hold incense sticks and pray at the Lama Temple in Beijing
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Intan Maizura Othman (34) wife of MH370 fligh attendant Hazrin Hasnan holds placard during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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A young relative tries to stick paper planes on a board during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Pictures of crews and passengers is displayed during an event to remember the 100th day of the missing crews and passengers of Malaysian Airlines plane MH370 in Damansara, Selangor
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Chinese police men try to prevent relatives of Chinese passengers onboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370 from marching to the Malaysian embassy from a hotel in Beijing
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Boatswain's Mate, Able Seaman Morgan Macdonald (L) observing markers from a Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) P3K Orion at sea in the Southern Indian Ocean. An oil slick in the Indian Ocean is not from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, officials said when insisting underwater search efforts would be 'pursued to their completion'
13/13 Search for flight MH370
Craig Turner from Phoenix International monitoring the Artemis' depth and speed as the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle scans the ocean floor for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 in the southern Indian Ocean
“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families of the 239 persons on board the flight,” he said. “The families have been on our minds throughout these past 100 days, and will continue [to be so] for a long while to come.
“We feel the families’ pain; we miss our colleagues and friends on board MH370. We feel the families’ anguish, and like them, Malaysia Airlines continues to hope and seek answers that will bring us closer to finding out what happened to MH370.”
The airline has begun paying out $50,000 (£29,500) advance insurance payments to families of people aboard the plane, but such is the distrust in officials and hope in the passengers’ survival that many Chinese relatives say they'll refuse the money.
Speaking at a gathering of families in the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing yesterday, Zhang Lixia – whose 27-year-old daughter was on board the jet – told China Daily: “When I left my home, I told them (relatives and friends) I was going to look for my daughter. I haven't found my daughter yet. How can I go back?
“When I was in the Lido hotel, the family members were all together. We could comfort each other. Now, I've almost reached a point where to die seems better than to live.
“I force myself to eat every day, because I still believe my daughter is alive and I have to stay strong to wait for her to come back.”
On this hundredth day since #MH370 went missing, remembering those on-board & their families. M'sia remains committed to the search effort.— Mohd Najib Tun Razak (@NajibRazak) June 15, 2014
Dai Suqin, whose sister was on board the plane, told BBC News there was “nowhere to turn to for help anymore”.
“We still have not seen our family members, we are not sure about the information and have no idea what to do,” she said.
“So we have to pray to Buddha, pray to the Goddess of Mercy for blessings. We have to place our hopes on this and pray for the heavens to help us.”
Meanwhile, the countries involved in the search remain entangled in a dispute over who should bear the brunt of the costs for the search operation off the west coast of Perth.
Under the rules of the UN Convention on International Civil Aviation, both Malaysia and Australia share responsibility as the home nation of the airline involved and the owner of the territorial waters where the plane crashed respectively.
China has commissioned a survey ship to map out the ocean floor within the search area at its own expense – despite being under no obligation in international law to fund the search.
Once the area has been mapped, a sonar search for wreckage by a specialist deep-sea private contractor will begin. That operation is expected to begin in August, and could take between eight and 12 months.