- Australians among 239 people feared dead
- Plane's silence leads to 'catastrophic explosion' speculation
Beijing: As it became apparent this was not a routine plane delay, heart-wrenching scenes unfolded at the arrivals hall at Beijing's international airport terminal.
With the arrivals board still showing the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur as delayed on Saturday morning, distraught family members and friends broke down as news filtered through that the flight had in fact gone missing hours earlier.
Reporters interview relatives at Beijing Capital International Airport. Photo: AP
"They keep saying there's no information," Zhai Le told Fairfax Media, explaining through tears that she had a friend on board the flight.
One woman was seen crouched down on the floor sobbing, before a male companion and police led her away. Another man appeared shell-shocked as he explained he had been waiting to pick up his boss, a French national, when he heard the news.
Chang Ken Fei, a Malaysian waiting at Beijing airport for friends to arrive, said: " At first I thought the plane was just delayed as normal, so I came a bit later, I've just been waiting and waiting," he told Reuters.
Malaysia Airlines plane goes missing
A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 carrying 239 people lost contact with air traffic control early Saturday morning on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, and international aviation authorities still hadn't located the jetliner several hours later. Photo: AFP
Police and airport staff escorted relatives to the Beijing Lido Hotel to wait for news, even as flustered family members continued to arrive at the airport, desperate for information.
With 154 Chinese nationals on the Malaysian Airlines flight, the news has received blanket coverage in China, and Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi cut short a scheduled press briefing at the National People's Congress to attend to the fall-out.
"We are extremely worried," Mr Wang said. "We are doing all we can to get details. The news is very disturbing."
China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported the plane was lost in airspace controlled by Vietnam, and did not make contact with Chinese air traffic controllers. Chinese authorities dispatched two rescue boats two assist with the search and rescue operations and said there were no storms in the area of the South China Sea where the plane was flying across.
At the Lido on Saturday afternoon, a steady stream of visibly upset relatives, some with heads bowed, arrived fearing the worst, running a gauntlet of reporters before entering a room under police guard.
"I know nothing, I really don't have anything to say," one man whispered through a crush of reporters, squeezing the hand of an elderly man trailing behind him.