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Relatives sob after announcement on missing plane

BEIJING (AP) -- Relatives shrieked and sobbed uncontrollably. Men and women nearly collapsed, held up by loved ones. Their grief came pouring out after 17 days of waiting for definitive word on the fate of the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

Malaysia's prime minister gave that word late Monday in an announcement from Kuala Lumpur, saying there was no longer any doubt that Flight 370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

Relatives of passengers in Beijing had been called to a hotel near the airport to hear the news, and some 50 of them gathered there. Afterward, they filed out of a conference room in heart-wrenching grief.

One woman collapsed and fell on her knees, crying "My son! My son!"

Medical teams arrived at the Lido hotel with several stretchers and one elderly man was carried out of the conference room on one of them, his face covered by a jacket. Minutes later, a middle-aged woman was taken out on another stretcher, her face ashen and her blank eyes seemingly staring off into the distance.

Most of the relatives refused to speak to gathered reporters and some lashed out in anger, urging journalists not to film the scene. Security guards restrained a man with close-cropped hair as he kicked a TV cameraman and shouted, "Don't film. I'll beat you to death!"

Some relatives staying at hotels in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur were notified in person of the imminent late-night news conference by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and some heard over the phone.

Some received a heads-up by text message, said Sarah Bajc, who has been awaiting news of the fate of her boyfriend, Philip Wood, ever since the plane disappeared March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

"Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived," the text message said. "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."

Bajc noted in an email that the prime minister's announcement made no mention of confirmed wreckage, "so no real closure," but she also said the time for grief had begun.

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

Wang Zhen, whose father and mother, Wang Linshi and Xiong Yunming, were aboard the flight as part of a group of Chinese artists touring Malaysia, said he heard the announcement on television in the hotel where he has been staying.

"My mind is a mess right now. Can we talk later?" he said by telephone.

Nan Jinyan, whose brother-in-law Yan Ling, a medical company engineer, was aboard the flight on a business trip, said she was prepared for the worst when she heard the Malaysian prime minister would make a statement.

"This is a blow to us, and it is beyond description," Nan said.

At the Lido hotel, where many of the Chinese relatives have complained about what they have described as incomplete or contradictory information provided by the airline and Malaysian authorities, two distraught women and a man came to address journalists nearly two hours after the announcement.

"I tell you, this was the wrong way to release this information," one of the women said between sobs, speaking over the bellows of security guards trying to hold back the crush. "It's all so black," she said, using the Chinese expression for opacity and deceit.

In Kuala Lumpur, screaming could be heard from inside the Hotel Bangi Putrajaya, where some of the families of passengers have been given rooms.

Selamat Omar, father of a 29-year-old aviation engineer aboard the flight, said in a telephone interview that Malaysia Airlines had not yet briefed the families on whether they will be taken to Australia, closer to where the plane is believed to have gone down. He said they expected more details Tuesday.

"We accept the news of the tragedy. It is fate," Selamat said.


Associated Press writers Didi Tang and Ian Mader in Beijing, and Todd Pitman and Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, contributed to this report.

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manolian March 24 2014 at 2:27 PM

My deepst empathy and condolences to all relatives who lost their loved ones, may they find relief as time passes from their horrible pain and anguish . :(

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cubalean March 24 2014 at 2:14 PM

My deepest and most heartfelt condolences to the relatives, family and friends of the passengers and crew of MH370. I felt there was always a ray of Hope!! It is good that there is closure, but the ordeal of living for 17 days not knowing whether they had survived or not must have taken its toll on everyone. My prayers are with you.

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Franco March 24 2014 at 2:08 PM

But, but, but, do they actually have evidence in hand confirming this?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
scottiece March 24 2014 at 2:08 PM

Words cannot express the sorrow I feel for these families!!! May everyone who perished rest in peace!

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ford46039x March 24 2014 at 2:07 PM

Media and their cameras stuck in the faces of grieving Friends and Family makes me sick. It will take time to heal, faith will prevail.

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no7hingpersonal March 24 2014 at 2:07 PM

Can't even imagine the heartache. I feel terrible.

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Kim March 24 2014 at 2:04 PM

Can't help but to grieve for them, even after hearing the woman calling out for her son. I hae children, and just can't imagine. Just heartbroken for these folks.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
jwfoust March 24 2014 at 2:02 PM

Condolences to all. This is not about nationality, it's about compassion for fellow human beings.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
Bill March 24 2014 at 4:11 PM

Sad that they lost all hope. Sad this was handled so poorly.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
bethh0504 March 24 2014 at 1:59 PM

I am so sorry to hear this news and my prayers go out to the families whose hearts are broken. I cannot imagine the pain they are feeling. I pray that they know that God is near to the broken hearted and His love remains the same, no matter what we face.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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