‘They have told us all lives are lost,’ Flight 370 relative says

Posted at 3:15 PM, Mar 24, 2014

(CNN) -- Some relatives of Malaysia Flight 370 heard the tragic news in person. Others were called. Some were sent a text message. The flight on which their loved ones boarded more than two weeks ago, and whose mysterious fate captivated a global audience, ended over the Southern Indian Ocean, they were told. Their loved ones did not survive.

On Monday Malaysia Airlines texted this to relatives of passengers: "Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean."

Malaysia Airlines told CNN that they sent a text message to family members before briefing others in person in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur and speaking to others by phone.

It is working on an arrangement to fly families to Australia once wreckage is found.

At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that Flight 370 "ended" in the Indian Ocean, far from any possible landing site.

Malaysia Airlines informed most of the relatives in person and by telephone about the Malaysian Prime Minister's conclusion, the airline said in a statement on its website. The airline sent text messages to the relatives before the prime minister spoke "only as an additional means of communicating with the families," according to the statement.

Those who got the news in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing were overcome with emotion.

"They have told us all lives are lost," a relative told a CNN producer at Beijing's Lido Hotel, where family members were called to meet with airline representatives.

Just before the relatives were briefed in a conference room, four emergency medical workers entered, dressed in bright orange uniforms. A bed on wheels also was pushed inside.

After some time, relatives emerged, sobbing loudly. A few pushed and shoved one another, overcome with grief. Some people were wheeled out on the bed. One group of relatives smashed a photojournalist's camera lens.

A relative rushed out of the room, screaming, "You announce this information today. ... Is it really confirmed? What's your proof? We've been waiting for 17 days. You simply tell us this! Where is the proof? It's wrong to announce the information like this!"

A Chinese grandmother staggered out of the conference room, screaming, "The Communist Party has to help me! My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board! All three family members are gone. I am desperate!"

She sobbed and fell to her knees.

Hours after Razak's press conference, a committee representing the 154 Chinese and Taiwanese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 sharply criticized the Malaysian government in a statement, accusing authorities of deliberate search delays and coverups, China's state-run CCTV reported.

"If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them," the statement said.

Anguishing relatives

CNN's Sara Sidner, who has been in Kuala Lumpur over the past few days, has spent time with family members.

"These families have been through absolute hell," she reported on air shortly before the Prime Minister's news conference began.

Family members have tended to move in groups, Sidner said, clinging to one another for support. Counselors are with them. Upon hearing the news the flight ended in the Indian Ocean, Sidner said, some relatives said they felt they had answers.

But since their nightmare began, many family members have "felt they'd been left out," she said. "That was very upsetting. They felt they were disrespected."

They have wept and begged authorities for answers and some appeared enraged by the seeming lack of progress.

The girlfriend of an American passenger has been writing her boyfriend on her personal Facebook page; notes that are tender and anguishing.

Sarah Bajc has written to Philip Wood that she misses him and wishes he would hurry up and come back to her. A Facebook page called Finding Philip Wood has become a repository for kind notes to Bajc and messages from others who have followed the flight mystery.

Just days ago, Bajc told CNN's Anderson Cooper that she was frustrated that authorities were not searching more on land rather than across the water.

"There's been no exchange of information with authorities," she said, "so that is exactly why I've been engaging with the media."

After the news conference Monday, a message was posted on the site, though it's unclear who composed it: "Our collective hearts are hurting now. Please lift all the loved ones of MH370 with your good thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continued support and for being our inspiration."

Bajc wrote in an e-mail to reporters after Monday's development that she still has no closure because there's still "no confirmed wreckage."

She wrote: "I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with the public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along. ... It looks like the first phase of our mission has ended. Now Philip's family and I will need some time for private grief."

Criticism of investigation

Malaysian authorities and Malaysia Airlines have faced increasing criticism of how they handled the investigation.

The airline has defended its actions, explaining that it takes time to verify satellite signals and analyze those signals' significance before releasing information.

Last week, three women who are relatives of the passengers staged a protest at the Kuala Lumpur hotel where the media are staying. Their efforts were cut short by security guards who removed them through a crush of reporters, dragging one as she screamed.

One woman cried: "My son ... I just want my son back."

She and the other family members said they weren't satisfied with "the Malaysian government's inaction."

"What we need is to know the truth, to know where the plane is," she shouted. "We have had enough. Malaysian government are liars."

Another woman shouted, "I don't care what your government does, I just want my son back!"

"We need media from the entire world (to) help us find our lost families and find the MH370 plane," the woman said. "We have no information at all. ... They only say 'keep searching' -- from South China Sea to Malacca Strait to Andaman Sea."

CNN's Yuli Yang, Pauline Chiou and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

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