ANGRY Chinese relatives stormed out of a teleconference yesterday in protest at the failure of the Malaysian government to address them in person over the fate of missing passenger jet flight MH370.
The walkout came as a robotic submarine was lowered into the Indian Ocean to search for the airliner, which went missing on 8 March en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.
However, the Bluefin 21 submarine surfaced early for the second time in as many missions, this time after experiencing technical difficulties.
It was sent back into the water after its data was downloaded but there has been no sign of the plane, according to the search co-ordinator.
More than 100 relatives of Chinese passengers walked out of the teleconference where they were to hear from senior Malaysian officials. Relatives described their protest as an act of defiance over a lack of contact with the Malaysian government and for taking so long to respond to their demands.
The family members had gathered in a meeting room at a Beijing hotel where Malaysia Airlines had provided lodging and food.
However, they stood and filed out shortly before the call with Malaysia’s civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, and others as it was about to start.
“These video conference meetings often don’t work, the sound stops and it’s constantly disrupted. Is that how we are going to communicate?” said Jiang Hui, one of the family members, after the walkout. “Do they need to waste our time in such a way?”
Mr Jiang said the Malaysian government had not met demands the relatives had presented to them weeks ago in Malaysia – an apology for the way they have handled the matter along with meetings with the Malaysian government and airline officials.
They also have requested to sit down with executives from Boeing and Rolls-Royce, the manufacturer of the plane and its engines.
Radar and satellite data show the missing jet flew far off-course for an unknown reason and would have run out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean west of Australia.
A ship-towed device detected four signals underwater that are believed to have come from the airliner’s black boxes shortly before the beacons’ batteries died. The sounds helped narrow the search area to the waters where the Bluefin 21 is now operating.
The US navy’s unmanned sub cut short its first mission on Monday because it exceeded its maximum operating depth of 4,500 metres (15,000ft). Searchers moved it away from the deepest waters before redeploying the sub to scan the seabed with sonar to map a potential debris field.
On the ocean surface, up to 14 planes and 11 ships were searching a 24,000-square-mile patch of sea about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth yesterday.
The surface search is expected to end soon as not a single piece of debris connected to the plane has been found.
Investigators are also waiting for test results from an oil slick found about 5,500 metres (three-and-a-half miles) from where the underwater sounds were detected.