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Malaysia plans update on flight MH370 as relatives fume
[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's government said it would make a statement on Thursday regarding missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, as rumours swirled the plane was to be formally declared "lost".
Such a declaration would clear the way for families to seek compensation payments and for Malaysia Airlines to make insurance claims, but would be a heavy emotional blow to relatives who have lived in torment for 10 months without knowing the fate of their loved ones.
Authorities had originally planned to make the announcement in a hastily scheduled afternoon news conference, but abruptly cancelled the briefing after distraught next-of-kin rushed to the venue.
The transport ministry said a televised announcement would be made at 6:00pm (1000 GMT).
The Malaysia government's handling of the crisis has been severely criticised by suspicious relatives of the 239 missing passengers and crew.
Several next-of-kin, some holding placards calling for the return of their family members, arrived at the briefing location in the headquarters of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), furious about not being briefed before the news conference.
"The most frustrating thing is that they (were planning) an announcement to the world first, then only to the next of kin," said Wesley Walter, whose brother-in-law was on the flight.
"Why are the next of kin being treated this way?"
The DCA later said it was "not appropriate" to make the announcement in the presence of next-of-kin, but would not divulge the nature of the information.
MH370 vanished on March 8 of last year en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing in what remains one of history's great aviation mysteries.
Malaysian authorities say satellite data indicates the plane inexplicably detoured to the remote southern Indian Ocean, and "deliberate" on-board action is suspected.
But no firm evidence has turned up yet, despite an ongoing Australian-led search of the supposed crash region - the most expensive search and rescue operation in history.
Malaysia launched various investigations into the affair but has so far released no information on any findings.
Some relatives bitterly accuse the Malaysian government and its flag carrier of a chaotic and bungled response to the plane's initial diversion that allowed the jet to disappear, and a subsequent cover-up - charges that are strenuously denied.