Angry Chinese relatives have tried to gatecrash Malaysia’s tightly controlled daily media briefing on the missing plane in chaotic scenes underlining the frustrations surrounding the 12-day search.
Shouting and crying, a handful of relatives of passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines flight 370 unfurled a protest banner on Wednesday reading “Give us back our families”. They accused Malaysian authorities of withholding information and doing too little to find the plane.
The dramatic protest unfolded just before Malaysian officials arrived for the briefing, in which they announced no progress in determining what befell the plane.
“They give different messages every day. Where’s the flight now? We can’t stand it anymore!” one woman wailed as reporters mobbed her and other relatives.
Shortly afterwards, Malaysia staged a shorter-than-usual press conference during which officials indicated the investigation was zooming in closer on the pilot.
Authorities said investigators had discovered that data had been deleted from the home flight simulator of Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah about one month before the plane vanished early on March 8. But they cautioned against a rush to judgment.
“Some data had been deleted from the simulator, and forensic work to retrieve this data is ongoing,” said Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
Officials gave no details on the simulator data.
Zaharie, a 33-year veteran of the airline, was highly regarded by his peers. But suspicion has clouded him since investigators concluded that the plane’s communication systems were manually disabled and the Boeing 777 was deliberately diverted by a skilled aviator.
Hishammuddin said Malaysia’s own investigations, and background checks received from other countries, had so far raised no indications that any of the plane’s 227 passengers might have been responsible.
“So far, no information of significance on any passengers has been found,” he said.
The aircraft also carried 12 crew.
The international quest to find the jet came up empty again, 12 days after it mysteriously vanished, with the Malaysian government acknowledging red tape was slowing a massive search.
Relatives of passengers have become increasingly agitated at the failure of the airline and Malaysian government to explain what happened, especially the families of the 153 Chinese nationals aboard.
Security had to intervene to stop the uproar at the press venue in a hotel near Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Family members were bundled out of the room, with two of them physically carried out, still protesting and shouting.
“I fully understand what they’re going through. Emotions are high,” Hishammuddin said.
But he had no progress to report from an international search across a huge arc of land and sea the size of Australia.