The Malaysia Government on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur, officially declared dead the 239 people aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared in March 2014, allowing the bereaved to claim compensation.
Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, Chief of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, said after 327 days and based on all available data, it was highly unlikely anyone had survived.
“All 239 of the passengers and crew on board MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives,” he said.
“It is hoped that this declaration will enable the families to obtain the assistance they need, in particular through the compensation process,” he added.
The airliner disappeared an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on March 8, 2014.
Azharuddin said this was not to say that government was closing the issue, and assured the families that the search for the missing MH370 would remain a priority, “with the continuing cooperation and assistance of the governments of China and Australia.”
Azharuddin said the search operations have focused on the southern Indian Ocean, where data showed the jetliner was likely to have crashed.
Meanwhile, the announcement drew angry reactions from relatives and loved ones in China, where most of the passengers were from, and where many have resisted declaring the missing dead before finding the wreckage.
Before the announcement, around two dozen people demonstrated outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, calling for the search not to be stopped.
Police officers cordoned off the area in Beijing’s Chaoyang district, and more than 50 police cars, buses and five fire-trucks were deployed to the area.
Many protesters were assisted by police and brought to a support centre, and two elderly people were seen crying and refusing to leave, while others sat down and refused to move.
Zhang Yuxi, father of one of the passengers, said the search was not over and they have not gotten enough evidence to conclude the aircraft was lost.
“It would be disrespectful to life and disrespectful to the Chinese people” to call off the search before finding any wreckage, he said.
“I miss my child and cannot sleep many nights, and the China’s lunar new year, when family members traditionally gather, is on February 19 this year,’’ he added.
Intan Othaman, whose husband was one of the flight crew, said “Prime Minister Najib Razak, thank you sir for declaring my husband’s death to the world and not to us, family.”
Maira Nari, whose father, Andrew, was the plane’s chief steward, also said “I can accept the fact that they won’t come back,” but justice is a must for the families of MH370’’.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry assured the families of all the Chinese passengers that they are always on the mind of the Party and the government.
It also called on Malaysia to fulfill all its obligations to the victims and those left behind.
The ministry urged Malaysia government to “fulfill its obligation of compensation, protect the lawful rights and interests of the families and provide them with support and assistance.
“We also call on the Malaysian side to remain fully committed to the search and investigation efforts and keep the families updated on the latest progress,” it said.