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'They have told us all lives are lost,' says relative of Malaysia Airlines passenger

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
updated 11:57 PM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "All three family members are gone. I am desperate!" shouts a Chinese grandmother
  • Malaysia Airlines sent a text saying "we have to assume" that no one survived
  • Relatives angry, overcome with grief; some lash out after being told the news
  • Group representing Chinese, Taiwanese passengers criticize Malaysian government

(CNN) -- Family members of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 passengers and crew heard the news they feared most Monday: "All lives are lost."

For many, who have waited and hoped for more than two weeks for signs of life from their loved ones, the grief was too much to bear.

"They have told us all lives are lost," a relative told a CNN producer at Beijing's Lido Hotel, where family members were called to meet with airline representatives.

Just before the relatives were briefed in a conference room, four emergency medical workers entered, dressed in bright orange uniforms. A bed on wheels also was pushed inside.

On June 26, the Joint Agency Coordination Center released a map showing the new search area for flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean. On June 26, the Joint Agency Coordination Center released a map showing the new search area for flight MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean.
The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370
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After some time, family members emerged, sobbing loudly. A few pushed and shoved one another. Some people were wheeled out on the bed. One group smashed a photojournalist's camera lens.

A relative rushed out of the room, screaming, "You announce this information today. ... Is it really confirmed? What's your proof? We've been waiting for 17 days. You simply tell us this! Where is the proof? It's wrong to announce the information like this!"

A Chinese grandmother staggered out of the conference room, screaming, "The Communist Party has to help me! My son, my daughter-in-law and granddaughter were all on board! All three family members are gone. I am desperate!"

She sobbed and fell to her knees.

Malaysia Airlines told CNN it sent a text message to family members before briefing those in person in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur and speaking to others by phone.

It texted this to relatives of passengers: "Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond a reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived. As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia's Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean."

At a news conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters that Flight 370 went down somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean, far from any possible landing site.

The airline is working on an arrangement to fly families to Australia once wreckage is found.

'Anguished relatives'

CNN's Sara Sidner, who has been in Kuala Lumpur over the past few days, has spent time with family members.

"These families have been through absolute hell," she reported on air shortly before the Prime Minister's news conference began.

Family members have tended to move in groups, Sidner said, clinging to one another for support. Counselors are with them. Upon hearing the latest news, Sidner said, some relatives said they felt they had answers.

But since their nightmare began, many family members have "felt they'd been left out," she said.

Since they learned the plane was missing, they have wept and begged authorities for answers, and some have appeared enraged by the seeming lack of progress.

"We're all human, and we all hurt. We all struggle through things. So I'm not the first one to go through something like this, and I'm certainly not going to be the last one," the brother of American passenger Philip Wood told CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360."

"I don't like being trite when I say my faith is getting me through this. It sounds kind of cliche to say it. It's a hope that we have that this is not the end of all things," James Wood said.

Philip Wood's girlfriend has been writing her boyfriend on her personal Facebook page, notes that are tender and anguished.

Sarah Bajc has written to Wood that she misses him and wishes he would hurry up and come back to her. A Facebook page called Finding Philip Wood has become a repository for kind notes to Bajc and messages from others who have followed the flight mystery.

After the news conference Monday, a message was posted on the site, though it's unclear who composed it: "Our collective hearts are hurting now. Please lift all the loved ones of MH370 with your good thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continued support and for being our inspiration."

Bajc wrote in an e-mail to reporters after Monday's development that she still has no closure because there's still "no confirmed wreckage."

She wrote: "I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with the public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along. ... It looks like the first phase of our mission has ended. Now Philip's family and I will need some time for private grief."

Bimal Sharma's sister was also aboard the flight, and like Bajc, he stressed that no debris has been found.

He told CNN's "The Lead With Jake Tapper" that he wants to "see something from the seas."

"Only thing I hope -- they don't give up the search," he said. "There are too many unanswered questions from this flight: Why was it diverted? Why did it fly low?"

Criticism of investigation

Hours after Razak's news conference Monday, a committee representing some of families of the 154 Chinese and Taiwanese passengers aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 criticized the Malaysian government in a statement, accusing authorities of deliberate search delays and cover-ups, China's state-run CCTV reported.

"If our 154 relatives aboard lost their lives due to such reasons, then Malaysia Airlines, the Malaysian government and the Malaysian military are the real murderers that killed them," the statement said.

Many have been critical of Malaysian authorities and Malaysia Airlines regarding the investigation.

The airline has defended its actions, explaining that it takes time to verify satellite signals and analyze those signals' significance before releasing information.

Last week, three women who are relatives of the passengers staged a protest at the Kuala Lumpur hotel where the media were staying. Their efforts were cut short by security guards who removed them through a crush of reporters, dragging one as she screamed.

One woman cried: "My son ... I just want my son back."

She and the other family members said they weren't satisfied with "the Malaysian government's inaction."

"What we need is to know the truth, to know where the plane is," she shouted. "We have had enough. Malaysian government are liars."

Another woman shouted, "I don't care what your government does. I just want my son back!"

CNN's Yuli Yang, Pauline Chiou and Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

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