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Dublin: 22 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

MH370 families protest as pilot suicide raised as a cause of plane disappearance

Australia has promised to welcome the families of those on board the missing flight.

A relative of Chinese passengers on board a missing Malaysia Airlines plane breaks down as she protests outside the Malaysia Embassy in Beijing.
A relative of Chinese passengers on board a missing Malaysia Airlines plane breaks down as she protests outside the Malaysia Embassy in Beijing.
Image: Ng Han Guan/AP/Press Association Images

IRATE CHINESE RELATIVES of passengers aboard the crashed Flight MH370 scuffled with security personnel outside Malaysia’s embassy last night, demanding answers about the plane’s mysterious and lonely demise in the stormy Indian Ocean.

Malaysia — decried as “murderers” by the Beijing protesters — defended its decision to release new analysis of satellite data that determined the plane had plunged into the southern seas far off western Australia.

Gale-force winds and huge waves halted the ocean search for wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines plane, deferring relatives’ quest to attain closure with definitive physical proof of the plane’s destruction and the loss of its 239 passengers and crew.

Mark Binskin, vice chief of Australia’s Defence Force, underscored the dangers from the weather — as well as the enormous size of area under inspection by aircrews using a mix of high technology and binoculars to scan the waves.

“We’re not trying to find a needle in a haystack, we’re still trying to define where the haystack is,” he told reporters.

The Boeing 777 went missing on March 8 while en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, dropping off air traffic control screens in what has become one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history.

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PA Graphics/Press Association Images

Australia pledges welcome

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said they would be warmly welcomed in their “desperately difficult time” should they make the trip. Australia will facilitate travel for Chinese relatives by waiving its standard visa fees, officials said.

Numerous sightings of suspected debris, by satellites as well as aircraft criss-crossing the southern Indian Ocean, had raised hopes that wreckage would be found. But none has been retrieved yet.

The US Navy has sent a specialised device to help find the “black box” of flight and cockpit voice data, along with a robotic underwater vehicle that can scan the ocean’s depths.

Those efforts will be crucial in determining what caused the Boeing 777 to deviate inexplicably off course and fly thousands of miles in the wrong direction.

Malaysia believes the plane was deliberately diverted by someone on board. But the lack of evidence has fuelled intense speculation and tormented families.

“Terrorism, pilot suicide and a complex set of mechanical failures never seen before are now the likely possibilities. A simple failure such as a simple fire or structural failure is becoming very unlikely,” said aviation consultant Gerry Soejatman.

© AFP, 2014

Read: Malaysia Airline sends text message to MH370 families

Read: Malaysian PM confirms that flight MH370 went down in the Indian Ocean west of Perth

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