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Missing Malaysia Airlines flight: Carrier vows to take family members to site once plane is found

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Hope fades for missing Australians

Hope is fading for the six Australians among 239 people on board a Malaysia Airlines jet that went missing off the coast of Vietnam. Nine News.

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Warned to be "prepared for the worst", Chinese families are packing their bags for Kuala Lumpur in the increasingly forlorn search for news of their loved ones on board the missing Malaysian Airlines flight bound for Beijing.

Relatives of the passengers of Flight MH370 were told they would be offered flights to either Vietnam or Kota Bharu in Malaysia, once authorities were able to ascertain the location of the missing aircraft.

But having waited two full days at the Lido Hotel in Beijing, starved of information, some families have requested to go to Kuala Lumpur in the meantime, to be closer to the airline's command headquarters. Flights will leave starting Monday, the airline said.

Long wait: Family members of those on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they wait for more information.

Long wait: Family members of those on board the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cry as they wait for more information. Photo: Reuters

"I just want to be closer to my family," was the simple explanation from one lady, in a brief interview aired on a regional Sichuan television channel.

The commercial director of Malaysian Airlines, Hugh Dunleavy, has been warning family members to be "mentally prepared" for the worst since arriving in Beijing late on Saturday to deal with the crisis.

And one man, who gave his surname as Jiang, admitted he had all but given up hope.

His 70-year-old mother rarely travelled, but was convinced to go on a one-week holiday to Malaysia with some friends.

While he won't go to Kuala Lumpur, he said he would go to the site of the aircraft when it is found.

"I just want to take a look," he told Fairfax Media. "Chinese people have a tradition of paying respect to the dead, it's a way of cherishing their memory."

"I think just about all the families will go, once they find the location of the plane."

Mr Jiang said he and three other family members with him – and indeed all the relatives at the Lido where authorities have told families to wait for news – have been "tortured" by spending two days in a hotel conference room, wanting nothing more than information on their closest kin, but getting absolutely none.

Other than the fact their flight went completely off radar screens, relatives have no information about their brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, parents and children.

Torn between grief and anger, many are displaying both extremes.

But being cooped up in the same hotel has also forged a spirit of solidarity.

Families are closely communicating via group messages on the popular mobile social media application WeChat, and in the age-old Chinese tradition of petitioning, close to 100 signatures were collected on a letter demanding answers from Malaysian Airlines.

Three representatives drove to the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing to deliver their petition in person.

On arrival, the embassy was already under the guard of a heavy police presence, with about five police vans in the vicinity of the embassy compound.

But unlike others who dare to question authority in China, these petitioners were treated with much empathy.

"The police have been very sympathetic, they know our situation," one of the petition organisers, who gave his last name as Wang, said outside the embassy. "They've been speaking in a very courteous tone to us." At 3pm Beijing time, Ignatius Ong, a representative of Malaysia Airlines, told a press conference in the Chinese capital that they were still unable to detect the whereabouts of the missing flight.

When the plane is located, the airline will set up a command centre in either Vietnam or Kota Bharu in Malaysia.

In the last three to four hours, the airline has been telling relatives "to expect the worse", Mr Ong said on Sunday.

He said his command centre in Beijing had not been contacted by the FBI over any terrorism investigations.

"As far as we aware everyone on board that flight had a visa to go to China," he said on Sunday.

Mr Dunleavy later told reporters in Beijing that some families had asked to go to Kuala Lumpur first.

"We will start making arrangements probably as soon as tomorrow if that's what they'd like to do," he said.

After more than 36 hours with no new information, the emotional distress was visibly showing on family members, with at least one woman fainting and requiring medical assistance.

“I didn’t sleep at all last night,” said one woman, who gave her last name as Peng. She said her younger sister’s husband was on the flight.

While most opted for relative privacy inside a guarded conference room, some were walking around looking visibly upset, while others were seen huddling quietly in corners crying.

One woman, who gave her surname as Lan, said relatives remained angry at the lack of information from the airline, despite a team of more than 90 Malaysian Airlines employees arriving from Kuala Lumpur late last night to assist family members.

“We don’t need words of pity, we want information,” Ms Lan, who had a brother-in-law on the plane, told Fairfax Media.

She had rushed on a train from Shanghai with her husband to be with her family in Beijing, and said she had been told only two family members per passenger could apply to be flown to the aircraft location.

“We can put our names down, but there has been no other progress,” she said.

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