Relatives of MH370 passengers are anxious to hear news of loved ones
Martial arts star Ju Kun was among those on board the flight
Tributes and messages of support are being shared online
Communities hold vigils to pray for the missing
New Zealanders Danica and Paul Weeks are no strangers to disaster. The couple’s eldest son, Lincoln, was born in the midst of an earthquake in Christchurch in 2010. Just over three years later, in December 2013, they were in a car accident after moving to Australia.
So when Paul left for a mining job in Mongolia earlier this month, the couple took precautions, Danica says. Paul couldn’t wear his wedding ring on the mine site so he left it, and his watch, at home with instructions to pass them on to his two sons, “should anything happen” to him.
On his way to Mongolia, Paul traveled on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
As she speaks to CNN’s Piers Morgan on Thursday, Danica grips her husband’s wedding ring while fighting back tears. It’s been five days since MH370 vanished, but with little information about the plane’s whereabouts the wait feels like an eternity.
“That’s the toughest part every day – waking up and looking on the news and seeing that there’s nothing; and there are no calls from Malaysia to say ‘we’ve found something,’” Weeks says.
“He was the most amazing husband and the most amazing father. He spent so much time with his kids,” she says.
Approximately 5,000 miles away, at a hotel near the Beijing Capital International Airport, Hu Xianquan waits anxiously for news of her husband, Mao Tugui. The couple last spoke on March 2 when Mao, a painter, was about to board a flight to Malaysia to attend an exhibition of his work.
For Hu, like many families of those on board Flight 370, grief is quickly turning to frustration. There has been no word of her husband for days and confusing reports about the search and rescue mission are only making the wait more agonizing.
“No one really updates us,” she says.
While many Chinese relatives of passengers on board Flight 370 began traveling to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday, Hu and her daughter decided to stay in Beijing, concerned that the language barrier would only make it more difficult to understand what was happening.
Malaysia Airlines offered to transfer Chinese and Indian relatives of missing passengers to Kuala Lumpur for “better care and comfort,” but some have declined.
“I don’t see the point in going to Kuala Lumpur and seeing the same information,” K. S. Narendran tells CNN from India. His wife Chandrika Sharma was on the flight. “It’s better to stay in Chennai where I’m surrounded by family and friends.”
Sharma, the executive secretary of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, had been on her way to Mongolia for a conference of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Her husband says he’s received little direct assistance or information from authorities about the search operation and relies on press conferences and news reports, but “that has thus far amounted to nothing.”
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak has appealed to relatives to be patient. “The families involved have to understand that this is something unexpected. The families must understand more efforts have been made with all our capabilities,” he said Wednesday.
More than half the passengers on board Flight 370 were Chinese. Martial arts expert and stunt man Ju Kun was among them. The 35-year-old, whose film credits include “The Grandmaster” and “The Forbidden Kingdom,” was set to begin filming a new Netflix series “Marco Polo” in the coming weeks.
Netflix and its production partner The Weinstein Company said in a statement that they were deeply saddened by the news.
“Ju Kun, who was on board, was an integral part of our production team and a tremendous talent. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time,” the statement said.
Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi posted a tribute to Ju on her Weibo account: “He is a sincere, kind and hardworking man.”
Like many of those on board Flight 370, Ju’s social media account has been flooded with comments from strangers, many praying for his safe return.
Around the world, communities have gathered to pray for the missing and offer comfort to their loved ones. On Monday, Malaysians sang songs and lit paper lanterns at a candlelight vigil in Kuala Lumpur.
In nearby Petaling Jaya, members of the St. Francis Xavier Church have been holding special prayer sessions for Patrick Francis Gomes, an in-flight supervisor who was on board the flight.
“It’s still difficult for us to come to terms with what has happen. I can only say that my father is a quiet person but also can be a joker,” his daughter Nikki Gomes told CNN.
“He is very dedicated to his job and took his responsibilities very seriously as all crew members would.”
Malaysia Airlines will retire flight codes MH370 and MH371 as a mark of respect to the passengers and crew, the company said in a statement Thursday.
A Facebook profile thought to be that of Pouria Nour Mohammadi, an 18-year-old Iranian who used a stolen passport to board the plane, has scores of messages of support from strangers.
“I don’t know you but I pray that you are safe somewhere in this world,” writes one user. “May you and the other passengers and crew on Malaysian flight 370, be found safe and may your journey continue to find yourself safe in your mothers [sic] arms again.”
Back in China, Huang Lu, a teacher at an elementary school in Guizhou province, waits for word of her friend, Huang Yi. The 30-year-old works for the technology firm Freescale in the company’s Tianjin office. She was on the plane with 19 other colleagues when it disappeared.
The women have been friends since they were teenagers. “She’s kind, lively and a good person to talk with,” Huang Lu said.
The pair kept in touch online. Yi, who has a five-year old daughter named Yuanyuan, would often talk to Huang Lu about family and raising children.
“I’ve been waiting, worried since I heard the news. I hope to see a miracle. Yi, please come back, Yuanyuan needs you,” she said.
Dayu Zhang and Serena Dong reported from Beijing; Sophie Brown wrote from Hong Kong. CNN’s Anjali Tsui and Euan McKirdy contributed to this report.