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First funerals set for MH370 passengers; face reality, says KL

Kuala Lumpur

THE first funerals for passengers on board a missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) jet will be held this weekend, relatives said yesterday, as a Malaysian minister urged relatives of those presumed dead to "face reality" and leave support centres.

Despite the most intensive air, sea and underwater search in commercial aviation history, there has been no trace of Flight MH370 since it vanished on a scheduled service from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. Almost eight weeks later, MAS has said it will close assistance centres it has set up in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur for the families of the 239 passengers and crew on board the Boeing 777-200ER jet.

Many of the bereaved are Chinese.

Yesterday, Malaysia's Deputy Foreign Minister Hamzah Zainudin said it was time for relatives to be "realistic".

"We have been waiting to come up with a statement and all of us, be it the family members or the whole world, is actually looking for the answer," Mr Hamzah told a news conference.

The airline, he said, had been looking after and supporting family members in Beijing for 55 days. "And that's the reason it's about time for us to actually accept the reality that the family members should go back and wait for the answer in their hometowns."

Some families in Beijing have left for home, but others were resisting.

Zhang Yongli, a relative of a passenger, said: "Malaysia Airlines has promised that they would not ask families to leave the Lido Hotel until they figured out what had happened and had found the plane. But now, they are going back on their word."

Family and friends of Rod and Mary Burrows, two of six Australians on board the flight, will hold a memorial service in Brisbane tomorrow, according to a statement on behalf of the family released by police.

Yesterday's announcement was issued a day after Malaysia released its most comprehensive account yet of what happened to MH370, detailing the route the plane probably took as it veered off course and the confusion that followed.

The preliminary report showed that four hours elapsed between the first sign that the plane had failed to report in and the decision to mount a search. It, however, left many questions unanswered, including whether the aircraft was deliberately diverted after communications were disabled.Reuters