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Chapter Six
Still waiting, still hoping

ON March 8 when MH370 disappeared, a post on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo went viral. It read: “This is air control calling MH370, please respond if you hear this. Please maintain your flight altitude, and stay on your path. We will clear the path for you, everyone is happy to make way for you to land first. The weather is clear and bright. It’s 5 deg C in Beijing, dear passengers, please put on more clothes. And remember to give your loved ones a warm, big hug.”

One month, endless tears and countless prayers later, MH370 remains lost.

Malaysia has vowed to continue with the search for as long as it takes. “We want to find answers. We want to provide comfort to the families and we will not rest until answers are indeed found,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on April 3 when he toured the search base in Perth, Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also promised his support. “It is a very difficult search, the most difficult in human history, but as far as Australia is concerned we are throwing everything we have at it.”

Why the flight went missing is being criminally investigated by the Malaysian authorities. They have said the focus is on the cabin crew and pilots as all 227 passengers have been cleared of any involvement in the disappearance. The theories the police are working on are hijacking, sabotage or someone with personal or psychological problems.

But even if plane debris is located, answers on how the jet ended thousands of kilometres off course may never be found. The 30-day lifespan of the battery-powered signal from the cockpit voice recorder is expected to expire on April 7. The recorder could reveal what decisions were made by those at the helm of the plane and why. The flight data recorder, which contains operational information on flight path and speed, for example, is also expected to expire soon.

The prime ministers of Australia and Malaysia, Tony Abbott and Najib Razak, vow to continue the search. -- PHOTO: AFP
The US Navy’s Bluefin 21, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), joins the search on April 4, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A relative of a Chinese passenger watches the news at a hotel in Beijing on April 3, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

Some families have quietly accepted that their loved ones will not be coming back. Malaysian teenager Maira Elizabeth Nari, who touched many with her tweets about her father Andrew Nari, the chief steward on MH370, wrote: “God loves you more daddy... God loves them more.”

Reacting to news that the plane is presumed to have crashed, Sarah Bajc, the girlfriend of American passenger Philip Wood, said: “I still feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along.”

Australian Irene Burrows, the mother of passenger Rodney Burrows who was travelling with his wife Mary, told the media: “I can only hope that whatever happened, it was very quick and they didn’t know.” Irene, who is in her 80s, said: “I want some wreckage to be found but I hope they leave the plane where it is. That is their final resting place. I would like the wreckage to be out there because that would mean Rodney and Mary aren’t too far from home.”

But some are still hoping against hope. Feng Zhiliang, whose cousin Feng Dong, 21, was a passenger, said: “Until it’s clear what happened we still have hope that our families will return home safely.”

The wives of Chinese construction workers Zhao Peng and Wang Yong Qiang can’t accept their loss.

Zhang Jing refuses to give up hope on her husband Zhao. “Unless they show me concrete proof, I will not believe that the plane has crashed,” she said in Beijing on April 4, her voice choked with tears. “I don’t want to think about what could have happened to the plane. I just want to stay focused on hoping for the best.”

Yang Rong clings on to her mobile phone where photos of her husband Wang are stored. There is also a photo of the ring he had bought for her in Singapore, and which she might never get to wear. She revealed that he got it because she had lost her wedding ring in the year he was working abroad.

She was upset about this but he had told her: “If you didn’t lose it, how can I buy something else for you?”

The mobile phone of Yang Rong holds photographs of her husband, Wang Yongqiang, who is missing, and the ring he had bought in Singapore for her. -- ST PHOTO: ESTHER TEO