Flight MH370: No end to agonising wait for families

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Media captionWith no news about the missing plane, many of the waiting families believe their loved ones are still alive. says the BBC's Alastair Leithead

They don't know for sure if their relatives are alive or dead, and are hoping beyond any real hope that the Boeing 777 has been hijacked or diverted, has landed somewhere safely and that their loved ones are still alive.

Every rumour or theory, every possible sighting or satellite image is a massive emotional up or down.

"When we heard from Australia they had found something we had a very, very bad feeling, I thought maybe I had lost my husband," the wife of one of the passengers said.

When the family heard the planes had failed to find the objects shown on the satellite photograph, she said their spirits lifted.

The families here in Malaysia crave any information - wherever it comes from and however reliable it might be.

From the media or from Twitter, from governments or investigators, or from the internet and its many conspiracy theorists - none can tell them where the plane has gone.

Deepest fears

Many of those waiting for information in Malaysia are staying in hotels in Kuala Lumpur.

Buddhist counsellors and therapists are helping them try to come to terms with the probability they will never see their family members again.

But the gap left by a lack of news about the plane's fate is filled by hope, and many of them believe their loved ones are still alive.

It's perhaps human nature to hang on to that tiny possibility.

The wife and the brother of one of the passengers described what they called a daily emotional rollercoaster.

They didn't want to identify their relative, as they believe the plane has been hijacked and any publicity could be detrimental.

They are Chinese and also fear speaking out against the wishes of the investigators and governments could affect the flow of information from the airline.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Relatives are staying in and around Kuala Lumpur

"We still have hope. I still think my husband is still alive. I hope tomorrow he will come back and I can go back to my home," the wife of the missing passenger said.

"I think he is still alive and he will come back and play with my daughter. I am looking forward to my phone suddenly ringing and for my husband's name to come up."

When asked about the possibility the plane may have crashed into the sea she refuses to think about it, but the man's brother gave a hint of their deepest fears.

"We could be cheating ourselves by thinking my brother is still alive," he said, but they have to think that way.

"We cannot stand this situation," he added.

Until the plane - or its remains - are found, many families will continue hanging on to this small hope against seemingly terrible odds.

Until that happens they will be unable to grieve.

And if it has indeed crashed in the depths of the harsh southern Indian Ocean, the aircraft may never be recovered.