Gales, huge waves delay search for plane

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IOL pic mar25 Malaysia Plane weather update from transport min

Beijing - Emotional relatives of Chinese passengers aboard Flight MH370 scuffled with guards outside Malaysia's embassy on Tuesday and abused the ambassador, demanding answers about the plane's mysterious demise in the stormy Indian Ocean.

But gale-force winds and huge waves halted the ocean search for wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines plane, deferring relatives' quest for physical proof of the plane's destruction and the loss of its 239 passengers and crew.

Malaysian authorities - decried as “murderers” by the Beijing protesters - defended their decision to release new analysis of satellite data that determined the plane had plunged into the southern seas far off western Australia.

Mark Binskin, vice chief of Australia's Defence Force, underscored the daunting size of the area under scrutiny by air crews flying exhausting sorties out of Perth.

“We're not trying to find a needle in a haystack, we're still trying to define where the haystack is,” he told reporters.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said better weather was expected on Wednesday, allowing the search to resume.

Twelve planes would take part and an Australian warship would return to sweep an area where debris was sighted from the air.

The Boeing 777 went missing on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, dropping off air traffic control screens in what has become one of the biggest mysteries in aviation history. Ever since, relatives in China have accused Malaysia of being deceitful and callous.

Around 200 of them, some in tears, linked arms and shouted slogans denouncing the handling of the slow-burning drama, a day after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced “with deep sadness and regret” that the plane had crashed in the ocean.

Scuffles broke out when uniformed security personnel tried to block some relatives from reaching reporters outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing.

“Return our relatives,” the family members shouted as uniformed police and plainclothes security protected the embassy gates. Another slogan went: “The Malaysian government are murderers.”

“My son, my son, return my son!” screamed Wen Wancheng, 63, as relatives behind him chanted slogans, raising their fists. Behind him, others bowed their heads and sobbed.

Chinese authorities normally keep a tight rein on any protests in Beijing, but occasionally allow people to vent their feelings, especially against foreign targets such as Japan.

The relatives delivered a written protest to the embassy before leaving. - AFP


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