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DISASTER MANAGEMENT
Malaysia PM to visit Perth as jet-search window narrowsw/ll
by Staff Writers
Kuala Lumpur (AFP) March 31, 2014


China media call for rationality over MH370
Beijing (AFP) March 31, 2014 - China should treat the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 "rationally", a commentary in state media said Monday, after days of lurid accusations by relatives insisting their loved ones could still be alive.

Under the headline "Treat MH370 tragedy rationally", the commentary in the China Daily newspaper, which is run by the government, said: "It is certain that flight MH370 crashed in the Indian Ocean and no one on board survived."

"We should not let anger prevail over facts and rationality," it said. "We need to comply with the fundamental norms of a civilised society and need to show the demeanour of a great power."

Irrational words and behaviour would "not help matters", it added, and those involved should "prepare to make arrangements for funerals".

"Although the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis has been quite clumsy, we need to understand this is perhaps the most bizarre incident in Asian civil aviation history. It is understandable that as a developing country, the Malaysian government felt completely at a loss."

It stressed that finding the aircraft and analysing technical data would take time.

"Why cannot we be patient and just wait until they find the wreckage and get the evidence?" it asked.

"Public opinion should not blame the Malaysian authorities for deliberately covering up information in the absence of hard evidence," it added.

The author, Mei Xinyu, is a researcher at a commerce ministry institute who is known for his analyses of international trade disputes.

His tone was in stark contrast to that of many relatives of the 153 Chinese on board the flight, who are still clinging to hopes that they could somehow still be alive.

Some have demanded that Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak withdraw and apologise for his announcement, based on satellite data and other calculations, that the plane was lost in the southern Indian Ocean.

At a meeting at a hotel in Beijing Monday anguished family members repeatedly pressed Malaysian officials to confirm that finding the plane intact on land was a real possibility.

They reacted angrily when Malaysia Airlines' commercial director Hugh Dunleavy told them there was "no guarantee that we will find the aircraft or the black box. It is a very large ocean and it is very deep".

One man accused Malaysia of engaging in a "wild goose chase", saying the search would be considered a "crime that will go down in history" unless it shifted its focus to land, rather than sea.

Some family members have embraced conspiracy theories involving the plane being hijacked and taken to a secret location and the passengers held hostage.

Scores of Chinese relatives were allowed by authorities in Beijing -- who normally keep a tight lid on public dissent -- to protest at Malaysia's embassy last week, shouting that Kuala Lumpur authorities were "murderers".

A day later, relatives called the Malaysian ambassador to Beijing a "liar" and a "rogue" during a meeting.

In the first days after the plane's disappearance Chinese officials were critical of the Malaysian response, but have since moderated their tone, although they still talk of there being a "glimmer of hope" and are urging Kuala Lumpur to bring Chinese experts into the investigation.

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak will visit Australia to witness the race-against-time bid to locate a crash site for flight MH370, his government said Monday as a ship equipped to pinpoint its "black box" prepared to steam to the search area.

Ships and planes from seven nations scanned a vast zone far off western Australia for yet another day, but the hunt for debris that would prove the Malaysia Airlines jet crashed in the Indian Ocean more than three weeks ago turned up nothing.

"The prime minister, who is going to Perth on Wednesday, will be briefed fully on how things have been conducted, and probably will be discussing what are the chances ahead," Malaysian Transport and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Experts warn debris must be found within days to nail down a crash site in order for any use of the US-supplied black box detector -- known as a towed pinger locator (TPL) -- to be feasible.

The US Navy, which has supplied the detection device, said in a statement Monday: "Without confirmation of debris it will be virtually impossible to effectively employ the TPL since the range on the black-box pinger is only about a mile."

But Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said earlier in the day no time limit would be imposed on the search for clues as to what happened.

- 'We owe it to the world' -

"We owe it to the families, we owe it to everyone that travels by air, we owe it to the anxious governments of the countries who had people on that aircraft. We owe it to the wider world which has been transfixed by this mystery for three weeks now," Abbott said in Perth.

The Boeing 777 carrying 239 people vanished without a trace on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, leaving stunned relatives, the aviation industry, and ordinary travellers around the world hanging on the mystery.

Families of Chinese passengers have angrily attacked Malaysia, alleging incompetence and deceit in what even Malaysian officials call the "unprecedented" loss of a jumbo jet.

More than a dozen Chinese relatives -- part of a group of nearly 30 who arrived on the weekend to press for answers -- kept up the pressure after a prayer session Monday at a Kuala Lumpur Buddhist temple.

"We will never forgive those who hurt our families and don't tell the truth and delay the rescue mission," a spokesman for the group, Jiang Hui, told reporters, reiterating suspicions toward Malaysia voiced by many relatives of the 153 Chinese aboard.

The Australian vessel Ocean Shield, fitted with the pinger locator and an underwater drone designed to home in on the black box's signal, was to conduct sea trials off Perth on Monday before heading to the search area.

A black box signal usually lasts only about 30 days. Fears are mounting that time will run out -- Ocean Shield will not reach the search zone, now the size of Norway, until Thursday, Hishammuddin said, roughly 26 days after the plane went missing.

If floating MH370 debris is found, authorities plan to analyse recent weather patterns and ocean currents to determine where the plane went down.

Malaysia believes MH370 was deliberately diverted by someone on board and that satellite data indicates it crashed in the remote Indian Ocean.

Monday's search saw ten planes take to the skies, with ten ships already at sea. Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Malaysia, South Korea and the US are taking part.

Malaysia remains officially in charge, but Australia has assumed increasing responsibility, appointing retired air chief marshal Angus Houston to head a new coordination centre in Perth.

Many Chinese relatives, still holding out slim hopes, have taken issue with Najib's March 24 announcement that the plane was lost at sea, despite the lack of firm evidence.

- Malaysian response 'clumsy' -

Hishammuddin said "high-level" Malaysian officials and experts involved in an investigation into MH370 would brief families simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur and Beijing "soon" in a bid to explain Malaysia's stance.

Malaysia insists it is being transparent, but is yet to release any details of its investigation into what happened, which has included probing the backgrounds of everyone on the flight, including its crew.

In testy exchanges with foreign journalists Monday, Hishammuddin said: "We are not hiding anything, we are just following the procedure that has been set."

Malaysia also has come under fire from China's state media, while Beijing has pressed for more transparency in the investigation. Authorities there allowed angry relatives to stage a rare protest last week at Malaysia's embassy.

But a commentary in the government-controlled China Daily struck a more measured tone Monday, urging relatives to accept their losses.

"Although the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis has been quite clumsy, we need to understand this is perhaps the most bizarre incident in Asian civil aviation history," it said.

burs-jz-dma/st

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