10 years after MH370 vanished, families still in limbo

Ocean Infinity carried out an unsuccessful search in 2018.

07 Mar 2024 01:31pm
(FILES) Relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 argue with police officers (R) after they tried to push through a police line outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on August 7, 2015. - FILE PIX by AFP
(FILES) Relatives of passengers on the missing Malaysia Airlines MH370 argue with police officers (R) after they tried to push through a police line outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on August 7, 2015. - FILE PIX by AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Ten years after her mother disappeared on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, Grace Nathan still struggles to accept that she is gone.

Grace was 26 and at university when the plane carrying 239 people vanished from radar screens on March 8, 2014, after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.

Despite the largest search in aviation history, which combed 120,000 square kilometres (46,332, square miles) of the sea floor of the southern Indian Ocean, only a few fragments of the Boeing 777-200ER plane have been found.

"Every year that goes by that the plane is not found is only just another agonising year in wait," said Grace from Malaysia, who wanted to be known by her first name.

Ahead of the 10th anniversary of the aviation disaster, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he was prepared to reopen the search for the missing plane if "compelling" evidence emerged.

In the meantime, relatives of the passengers and crew of MH370 deal with the uncertainty of what happened to their loved ones.

'Secondary damage'

Liu Shuang Fong's 28-year-old son Li Yan Lin was returning to Beijing because his parents wanted to introduce him to a prospective bride. He never met her.

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"We decided to move out of our house to a new place to help with our emotions," Liu, 67, told AFP during a gathering of families in Malaysia on Sunday to mark the 10th anniversary of the plane's disappearance.

"I still have sleepless nights waiting for his knock on our door. I think of my son every day," she said.

For others, the pain felt over the past decade is many times worse than their initial grief.

"I don't dare to think back to the road leading up to now from the past 10 years," said Jiang Hui, whose mother was on the plane.

"The torment and damage from the past 10 years, all of this secondary damage to the relatives has far surpassed the initial damage done from the initial incident. Not two times or three times worse, but ten to a hundred times worse," he told AFP in Beijing.

Jacquita Gonzales, whose husband was a member of the cabin crew, said the only way to resolve their grief was to find the plane.

"That's why it is important to search on," Gonzales told Sunday's gathering near Kuala Lumpur.

"Don't let it remain a mystery."

'We all need to know'

The plane's disappearance has long been the subject of a host of theories -- ranging from the credible to outlandish -- including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue.

A report into the tragedy released by Malaysia in 2018 pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually, but did not come up with any firm conclusions.

Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke has said he will meet with officials of US-based marine exploration firm Ocean Infinity to discuss a possible resumption of the search.

Ocean Infinity carried out an unsuccessful search in 2018 after the massive Australia-led operation also failed to locate the aircraft after nearly three years. That search was suspended in January 2017.

Blaine Gibson, an American wreck hunter and former lawyer who has found pieces of debris from MH370, said getting to the "truth" about what happened will benefit not only the families but the flying public as well.

"We all need to know that when we get on a plane we're not just going to disappear," he told AFP.

"Malaysia also needs the answer. They need to find the plane and put this behind them and move on."

Making her mother proud

For a long time, Grace was determined to make her mother Anne Daisy, who was 56 when she boarded the flight, proud in case she miraculously returned.

She topped her law class in Britain, became a lawyer in Kuala Lumpur, married and had children.

Grace, now 36 and a spokesperson for the relatives of MH370 victims, said the incident became part of her identity, something she has found hard to shake off.

"People always recognised me as the girl whose mother was on the plane," she said.

"I had to work very hard to establish myself as a lawyer in my own right... as an individual separate and apart from MH370." - AFP