MH370 Report Provides Few Answers as Families Mark One Year

MH370 Report Provides Few Answers for Families

Families of those aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 held vigils and protests Sunday to mark one year since the plane’s disappearance, as a report on the international search shed little light on why it went down or where it might be.

The 584 pages of maps, manifests, personnel records, and air traffic control transcripts released by Malaysia’s safety investigation team described a largely routine flight. The report showed nothing unusual in the pilots’ behavior, background or financial profiles.

The few new details -- a missed security check on a cargo of lithium-ion batteries and an expired battery in a locater beacon -- failed to satisfy family members desperate to know the fates of 239 passengers and crew.

“The interim report didn’t provide any effective information,” Bai Jie, whose mother was on the flight, said after joining a protest outside the Malaysian Embassy in Beijing. “That’s why we are very angry.”

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Monday that the ministry would undertake an immediate review and analysis of the report.

“This matter is of serious concern and we will take stern action once we have analyzed the factual information, particularly from the perspective of civil aviation-related protocols and processes,” Liow said in the e-mailed statement.

‘Sad Reminder’

The report came as relatives gathered to remember those who went missing during the flight to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur and demand that search efforts continue. No trace of the Boeing Co. 777-200ER has been found despite an international expedition that has scoured more than 26,000 square kilometers (10,000 square miles) of the southern Indian Ocean and is already the longest-ever hunt for a scheduled commercial flight.

The Malaysian civil aviation department declared Jan. 29 that MH370’s disappearance was an accident and said all on board were presumed dead. Another Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing 298 people. The two incidents led the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional Bhd., to take the flag carrier private for restructuring.

“We’re all really solemn and sad because the one-year mark is to remember that it’s actually been a year,” said Grace Subathirai Nathan, 27, a lawyer whose mother was on the flight. “For a lot of us, life has been quite stagnant. We haven’t been able to move forward much. It’s a sad reminder of how painful it was.”

Subathirai was among the organizers of a remembrance event attended by about 100 people at the Publika mall in Kuala Lumpur. Participants wrote messages to relatives on white balloons and released them into the air.

In Beijing, friends and family of passengers met in the morning at the Lama Temple to pray. Some later gathered near the Malaysian embassy, where they demanded the government tell the truth about the flight, which had 153 Chinese on board.

Expired Battery

Before the interim report was released Sunday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak reaffirmed the country’s commitment to continuing the search.

“No words can describe the pain the families of those on board are going through,” Najib said in an e-mailed statement. “The lack of answers and definitive proof –- such as aircraft wreckage –- has made this more difficult to bear.”

Government ministers from Australia, China and Malaysia will discuss whether to fund another stage of the search for the plane at a meeting being planned for April. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday in Sydney that the search couldn’t go on forever, and that he was reasonably confident of finding the plane.

“As long as there are reasonable leads, the search will go on,” Abbott said.

Among other things, the interim report revealed that the battery of the plane’s underwater locater beacon had expired in December 2012. While it’s possible for the beacon to work past the expiration date, the report said its effectiveness could decrease, possibly hampering search efforts.

The plane was also carrying 221 kilograms (487 pounds) of lithium-ion batteries that were loaded without going through a security screening, according to the report. The batteries, which can overheat and catch fire, were packed and physically inspected by the airline’s cargo officials in Penang, Malaysia, where they originated.

In a statement Monday, Malaysia Airlines said another underwater locator was installed with the cockpit voice recorder. The battery on that beacon had not expired and would have been transmitting for 30 days once it was activated upon immersion in water. It also said the inspection procedure on the battery cargo was in line with International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines.

Chaotic Transcripts

The last words from MH370’s pilots, at 1:19 a.m. on March 8, were “Good night, Malaysian Three Seven Zero,” according to transcripts in the report. It wasn’t clear whether the pilot or copilot made the comment.

Transcripts included in the report revealed confusion among air traffic controllers across Southeast Asia after the flight failed to make the handoff to Vietnam. At one point, air-traffic controllers speculated the plane might have strayed into Cambodian airspace or continued on to China.

“We don’t care about the interim report saying recorder batteries were out or not,” Kelly Wen, whose husband was on the flight, said in Kuala Lumpur Sunday. “All we want is for them to go to sea and find the plane.”

— With assistance by Haixing Jin, Kyunghee Park, and Manirajan Ramasamy

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