MH370 search: China demands to see proof that missing Malaysia Airlines flight crashed into the sea

Angry protests in Beijing as hunt for missing airliner is halted by bad weather

Sydney

Grief-stricken relatives of passengers and crew of the ill-fated flight MH370 have protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, as China demanded to see the British satellite data analysis which led Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, to announce the plane had crashed in the Indian Ocean with no survivors.

The hunt for physical evidence to back up that conclusion – and to illuminate why the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flew thousands of miles off its scheduled course – had to be abandoned today because of gale-force winds, heavy rain and turbulent seas.

Underlining the challenge facing the multinational search force of planes and ships, Mark Binskin, the vice chief of Australia’s Defence Force, commented: “We’re not trying to find a needle in a haystack; we’re still trying to define where the haystack is.”

While analysis of the Inmarsat data has enabled investigators to narrow the search zone in the remote southern Indian Ocean to one-fifth of the original area, it still encompasses a massive 1.2 million square kilometres.

“This has been an unprecedented event requiring an unprecedented response,” the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, Mohammed Nor Yusof, told a press conference. “The investigation still under way may yet prove to be even longer and more complex than it has been since March 8th [when the plane vanished off radar screens].”

 

Mr Najib’s dramatic announcement confirming that all 239 people on board MH370 had perished has strained already frayed relations between Malaysia and China.

With Chinese accounting for two-thirds of the dead, emotions about Malaysia’s handling of the crisis are running high. Dozens of angry relatives, who have accused Malaysian authorities of a bungled initial response to the plane’s disappearance during a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, threw plastic water bottles at the embassy and scuffled with security guards.

Chanting “Liars” and “Malaysia, give us back our relatives”, they tried to storm the building and demanded a meeting with the Malaysian ambassador.

The Chinese President, Xi Jinping, said he was sending a special envoy to Kuala Lumpur, where the government is under pressure to release the data analysis carried out by Inmarsat and experts from Britain’s Air Accident Investigation Bureau.

While better weather is forecast for the Southern Ocean today, the loss of a day will make it more difficult for search teams to find and retrieve possible debris spotted by satellites and planes in recent days.

At a press conference, the Malaysian Transport Minister, Hishammuddin Hussein, acknowledged that relatives needed physical proof of the 777’s fate. “Until we can find debris and confirm the debris is from MH370, it is very difficult... to have closure for the families,” he said.

“We do not know why, we do not know how... the terrible tragedy happened,” said the airline’s chief executive, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya.

Geoff Dell, an accident investigation expert based at the University of Queensland, told Associated Press that just one piece of wreckage would enable oceanographers to plot where it might have drifted from, helping them determine where the plane went down.

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