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MISSING MAS FLIGHT: The stuff of tragedy and nightmare

Publication Date : 09-03-2014

 

I usually switch off the 3G connection on my mobile phone when I sleep, but something told me to leave it on as I prepared to go to bed Friday night.

I was woken up Saturday morning by Whatsapp messages from colleagues and friends saying a Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight had lost contact with air traffic control.

What ensued next was a mad dash to the airport and then to the Lido Hotel, where families and friends of the passengers were.

The mood at the airport and the hotel was tense.

Chinese and foreign reporters had gathered to get firsthand information, but no officials were around to provide any updates.

The reporters crowded around anyone who could possibly give them a comment, their cameras clicking away.

Rumours of the aircraft’s whereabouts kept coming in along with rebuttals, as the reporters waited for the press conference to start at the Lido Hotel.

Although the small meeting room was already packed with reporters and cameramen, more of them tried to squeeze in.

An exasperated security officer shouted: “There is no point getting in there. Nothing is going on right now!”

One journalist, who was already in the room, responded by asking in a raised voice: “When is the press conference going to start?”

No answer was given as MAS representatives were not there.

A man with a worried look stood waiting outside the room. His two colleagues were onboard the flight.

“They were both in Kuala Lumpur for three days in order to attend a training session.

“When we saw the news this morning, we realised that it was the flight they were taking,” the man, who preferred not to reveal his name, said.

He was calm and gentle but it was evident that he was anxious to find out his colleagues’ fate.

Most of us in the room could only pray for the safety of every passenger and crew member onboard as we waited for the answers.

A solemn mood hung in the air as families of the affected passengers were ushered into a room at the hotel.

None of them responded to the reporters waiting outside the door, but really, no one was sure what was the right question to ask without hurting their feelings.

A Beijing-based Malaysian, who had just come back to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on Friday with MAS, said that she had almost changed her flight to travel over the weekend.

“We wanted to spend more time in Malaysia but the penalty was almost 1,000 ringgit (US$306.94), so we didn’t take it in the end.”

She refused to say that she was lucky.

“In this time of tragedy, we shouldn’t be thinking just about ourselves,” she said.

 

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