Flight MH370 relatives were advised they must return home. The announcement was made at Beijing’s Lido Hotel Thursday where hundreds of family members had been living for weeks now as they awaited word on any new developments on missing Malaysia Flight 370. For the loved ones of those missing, closure has yet to come, and many found strength and comfort being among those who had also lost those closest to them.
According to CNN on May 1, after the directive was given that assistance centers would be shut down by May 7, relatives burst in tears, bemoaning and wailing the fact that they must now return to their homes – with little to no information about the fate of their friends and family members missing for nearly two months now.
"What can we do?" one distraught relative yelled. Others dropped to their knees in front of police who were called in to keep the briefing under control, as if to beg those responsible to do something on their behalf. Along with the disbanding of the assistance centers, the daily masses held – a source of support for many – will also be done away with.
"Who will find our family members now?" another person shouted. The Lido Hotel said they would close their doors to families tomorrow. Other centers gave families until May 7 to leave and return to their homes.
Malaysia Airlines issued a press release:
Instead of staying in hotels, the families of MH370 are advised to receive information updates on the progress of the search and investigation and other support by Malaysia Airlines within the comfort of their own homes, with the support and care of their families and friends.
The airline did say said it would open different "family support centers" in Beijing and Malaysia's capital, though it was unclear what would be provided at those centers. The Lido Hotel had served as an information hub for hundreds of Chinese gathered there since the days shortly following the announcement that Flight 370 had been missing. Despite dozens of claims of potential sightings of wreckage and “black box” pings, not a single piece of debris has been located.
American Sarah Bajc, whose friend Philip Wood was on Flight 370, said “people started to break down” after the announcement was read. Bajc said close to 500 people had gathered in conference rooms for the meeting. After the 7-minute statement was read, and translated, the room started to “tense up,” Bajc said.
"I could hear a lot of yelling. Some of the police officers that were outside went in, and they started to file family members out through a separate exit," she said, adding that officials quickly assured those in attendance that they were not calling off the search for the jet. "They are very distraught, because the average Chinese family member will be sent home to mostly a very rural place with limited access to (the) Internet, and they just feel like all lines of communications will be cut," Bajc said.
According to CNN, the airline also said Thursday it would begin making advance compensation to the Flight 370 passengers' next of kin, to help with their immediate economic needs.
“Under an international treaty known as the Montreal Convention, the airline must pay relatives of each deceased passenger an initial sum of around $150,000 to $175,000. Relatives of victims can also sue for further damages,” writes CNN.
"Such advanced payments will not affect the rights of the next-of-kin to claim compensation according to the law at a later stage, and will be calculated as part of the final compensation," the airline's news release said.
Meanwhile, Australian company GeoResonance said it has found the wreckage of a plane in the Bay of Bengal, thought to be Flight 370. The company "analyzes super-weak electromagnetic fields captured by airborne multispectral images in order to locate oil, gas, groundwater and uranium," says their web page. Reuters reported however that the company’s claim of locating the missing jet was “dismissed by search coordinators.”
CNN aviation expert Miles O'Brien said GeoResonance's claims are complete nonsense. "My blood is boiling," O’Brien said. "I've talked to the leading experts in satellite imaging capability at NASA, and they know of no technology that is capable of doing this. I am just horrified that a company would use this event to gain attention like this."
Still, the news of another potential sighting sent two vessels on what appeared to be a fruitless hunt. Bangladesh sent two navy vessels into the Bay of Bengal to the location cited by GeoResonance. They found nothing.
"The investigators are going to be hard-pressed to blow this off," said Mary Schiavo, a former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation. "I think at this point, because of the lack of results where they've been searching for six weeks, they're almost stuck. They have to go look."