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For MH370 families, debris leaves uncertainty in its wake
[BEIJING] Malaysia's leader called it conclusive evidence; for others it fell short of that standard. To Jacquita Gonzales, that difference means the long wait for closure on missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues.
Investigators "conclusively" confirmed the wing part found July 29 came from MH370, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement early Thursday in Kuala Lumpur. An hour later, deputy Paris prosecutor Serge Mackowiak said officials have a "strong presumption" the debris came from the aircraft, which vanished in March 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
"I wonder if the French prosecutor and Najib have the same dictionary," Ms Gonzales, whose husband Patrick was an in-flight supervisor on the missing plane, said Thursday by phone from Subang Jaya near Kuala Lumpur. "That creates some uncertainty for the families. It's confusing."
Relatives of the 239 people who vanished along with the Boeing Co 777 are seeking more definitive answers before concluding their loved ones died.
The metal wing part found last week on Reunion island near Africa validates the hypothesis that Flight 370 crashed in the Indian Ocean. But it doesn't pinpoint exactly where the aircraft took its fatal plunge or why it strayed so far from its intended path - elements that many of the relatives need for closure.
"As a Chinese saying goes, if you didn't die, we need to see the live person. If you died, we need to see the corpse," Jiang Hui, whose mother was on board Flight 370, said by phone Wednesday night.
Some family members tried to meet Thursday with Malaysia Airlines's officials in Beijing, but the meeting was canceled when the families insisted that media attend. They were prevented from entering Boeing's offices in the same building complex. Several women sobbed in the lobby.
Dai Shuqin, 62, who lost five family members on MH370, said Thursday's announcements failed to settle the issue.
"No matter what they find, it won't give us peace of mind," she said. "We want our relatives back."
The wing part, known as a flaperon, is the first physical remnant discovered in connection with MH370. French investigators have received technical information from Boeing and from Malaysian aviation officials, but are just starting their review in a defense ministry lab in Toulouse, deputy Paris prosecutor Mackowiak said.
"Can you make the judgment based on a small piece of debris?" Ms Jiang asked. "I don't care about their announcement."
Investigators will conduct microscopic analyses and chemical studies of the flaperon for clues to the nature of the disaster. A suitcase found on Reunion, across a vast expanse of Indian Ocean from MH370's presumed resting place, is being evaluated separately.
Malaysia's transport minister said Thursday that additional debris resembling airplane parts had been found on Reunion and would be sent to France for analysis.
Deepest Sorrow Malaysia Airlines sent a message to victims' families shortly after Najib's announcement.
"Malaysia Airlines would like to sincerely convey our deepest sorrow to the families and friends of the passengers onboard Flight MH370 on the news that the flaperon found on Reunion Island on 29 July was indeed from Flight MH370," it said. "This has been confirmed jointly" by investigators and officials from France, Malaysia, China and Australia, the message said.
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop also stopped short of certainty, however, saying Thursday there was a "high probability" the piece came from MH370. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia, which has allocated about A$100 million (US$74 million) to the search, will continue looking for more debris.
For Wen Wancheng, a resident of China's Shandong province whose son was on the flight, Thursday's announcement brought a measure of relief.
"When I heard the confirmation that the debris was indeed from MH370, the first thing I could do was go to sleep in peace, because there is finally news about the flight," he said. "The next critical thing is whether or not Malaysia Airlines can prove the flight crashed in the southern Indian Ocean."
The region being scoured by sonar submersibles is about 3,800 kilometers (2,400 miles) southeast of Reunion. That's consistent with models showing how debris would have drifted in the nearly 17 months since the crash.
Some family members want to see for themselves.
"I want to go to the island and request Malaysia Airlines to provide all forms of assistance," Wang Zheng, from the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, whose parents were on the flight, said Thursday by online message. "Even if they make an announcement 10 times, if we don't see our family members the announcement will be useless."
Mr Gonzales, whose husband was the in-flight supervisor, said her daughters don't want to hold a memorial for their father until there's more evidence confirmed to have come from MH370.
"I went to work today. What else can I do?" Mr Gonzales said. "I've waited 16 months, now coming to 17 months, to get confirmation. Another few months, next year, I can wait. I've waited for so long."