The world over, desperate families await news of MH370
March 11, 2014 | Katy Lee for AFP
The family of Muktesh Mukherjee, a passenger on board the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, are praying that disaster has not struck twice.
The 42-year-old's grandfather, a former Indian government minister, was killed in a plane crash on the outskirts of New Delhi in 1973.
"Miracles do happen. We pray it will happen this time and Muktesh will come back to us," his uncle Manoj Mukherjee told AFP in the Indian city of Kolkata.
Muktesh, an Indian-born Canadian who works for US firm XCoal in Beijing, was heading home on flight MH370 with his Chinese wife Xiaomo Bai.
Just days ago she posted photos on Facebook of an idyllic coastal resort in Vietnam, where the couple were holidaying. Other recent photos show their two small sons laughing as they played in the snow in Beijing.
The uncle said family members were flying from India to Beijing to take care of the boys, who did not join their parents on the trip.
The Mukherjees are among dozens of families around the world desperate for news of the plane that vanished with 239 people aboard early Saturday, an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur for the Chinese capital.
The oldest missing passenger is 79; the youngest is just two.
Nearly two-thirds of those on board were Chinese. The rest hail from 14 other nations stretching from Canada to New Zealand, the United States to Ukraine.
Their reasons for heading to Beijing hint at China's growing might as a business destination, a place of study, and a stop on the tourist trail.
The missing include retired holidaymakers, 20 Asian workers from a US semiconductor company, three French high-school students, and a group of Chinese artists who were in Malaysia for an exhibition.
Stoking fears of terrorism, two passengers boarded using stolen passports from Italy and Austria. But nothing is confirmed about what might have befallen the plane, and families are forced to endure an agonising wait in a vacuum of information.
'THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE'
Catherine and Bob Lawton, a couple in their 50s, were among six Australians on the missing jet, holidaying with their friends Rodney and Mary Burrows.
The Lawton family said they hoped for good news, but were fearing the worst.
"All the family members are trying to remain positive for any hope of survivors (but) we are bracing ourselves for the worst possible outcome," they said in a statement released by Queensland police.
Rodney Burrows took redundancy last year and he and his wife had moved just weeks ago to a smaller house to enjoy retirement and travel with the Lawtons.
"They basically moved into a new chapter of their life," a neighbour, who did not want to be named, told reporters.
"They were beautiful people and we loved them dearly. Hopefully it was quick for them."
Sydney couple Li Yuan and Gu Naijun were also aboard the plane.
They were reportedly returning to China after their petrol station business was put into administration and they were forced to sell their home.
Four French citizens -- three of them students at the Lycee Francais international school in Beijing -- are among the missing, France has confirmed.
In Beijing, Indian student Sanved Kolekar was waiting for news of his parents and brother. They were coming to visit him in the Chinese capital, where he has been working on post-doctoral astrophysics research since December.
"I don't know what happened. They haven't given me any information. It's very difficult because I don't understand the local language," the Mumbai Mirror newspaper quoted Kolekar as saying.
For their part, the Chinese passengers were a cross-section of the millions in the country newly able to afford international travel following decades of economic growth.
They included 19 artists, plus several family members and staff, returning from a state-sponsored art exhibition in Kuala Lumpur, among them painter and poet Wang Linshi.
"Wang's art was just like his personality, elegant, sweet, graceful," said his friend Yang Linchuan, choking up. "He had a lust for life, and high demands for his art. Now suddenly he has gone, we feel very worried."
Another painter, Liu Rusheng, 76, published an essay online looking back at his life. "Fate has been good to me," he said. "The creative road ahead is long, and I'm willing to make greater efforts to progress."