Relatives of Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines’ missing flight MH370 are still clutching to faint straws of hope for their loved ones, as the search enters a fourth day.
“I hope it is a hijacking, then there will be some hope that my young cousin has survived,” said a man in his 20s surnamed Su.
Families and friends of many of the 153 Chinese passengers – more than two-thirds of those on board the flight to Beijing – are gathered at the Lido Hotel in the city, waiting for news.
“My uncle and aunt had an emotional breakdown, they are not eating, drinking and sleeping and could not face coming here,” said Su.
“They need our help. We have been telling them lies – stressing the few positives in all of this – to keep their spirits up.”
Malaysia Airlines has offered to fly two relatives of each of the missing to Kuala Lumpur to be closer to the search, but Su said the family was worried for the welfare of his cousin’s grief-stricken parents if they made the trip alone.
“We have offered to pay for ourselves, so the wider family can help our aunt and uncle,” he said.
We seemed to have been slowly fed information, which is making things a lot worse.
Inside the hotel ballroom, family members sitting in rows of seats watch a plasma television screening continuous news.
In the days since the Boeing 777-200 vanished from radar screens there have been repeated reports of oil slicks being found and possible debris sightings, only for each of them to be later ruled out.
“The wait has been absolute torture,” said a man in his 20s surnamed Liu, from the northern city of Tianjin, who said his older brother was on the flight.
“We seemed to have been slowly fed information, which is making things a lot worse,” he added.
In the information vacuum, any rumour, however wild or implausible, is leaped upon.
Some have seized on Chinese press reports that some of the passengers’ relatives have heard ringing tones when trying to call their loved ones’ mobile phones.
“This could be a clue and shouldn’t be ignored,” said a man from Beijing surnamed Chen, whose cousin was on board.
“The airline hasn’t even been able to use technology to locate signals of the plane.
“Even if they could rule out the possibility that the phones were ringing, it would be better for relatives,” he added.
“Then at least we wouldn’t hold out any hope.”