Passengers' families praying for a miracle

Updated: 2014-04-17 23:27


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Lin Annan had been studying in Malaysia and was planning to return home to Xining, capital of Qinghai province.

But the student, in his 20s, never made it back. He was one of the 154 Chinese passengers on Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

His mother, who wants to be known by her surname Lin, believes he is still alive.

Like many of the Chinese passengers on board the Boeing 777-200, he was an only child.

To pray for her son, Lin set up a chat group on the popular mobile messaging service WeChat. She invited her friends and relatives of other passengers to join the group, saying the prayers were for all 239 people on the flight.

"If we hold on to our love, there will be a miracle," she said.

The jetliner vanished on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8. The multinational search far off the Australian city of Perth has been focused on finding the plane's black box data recorders in a remote area of the Indian Ocean.

Like Lin Annan's mother, many other relatives still hope that their loved ones will return alive as they continue the agonizing wait for news.

Wang Jian, a doctor in the psychiatry department at Beijing Huilongguan Hospital, said, "Many of them cannot easily accept the reality".

Wang has been leading a team to help the passengers' families since the plane disappeared.

Many of the families may choose to deny the facts on hand, but that is understandable because it shows how deeply they miss their loved ones, Wang said.

"Being there is just the beginning of the psychological support that we can try to provide," he added.

Volunteers from Wang's team also give suggestions to the relatives on how to cope with the situation, but will not oppose the families' views, Wang said.

Every day, his team meets the relatives, who are waiting for news at five hotels in Beijing. The team also checks the family members' health.

A consultation desk has been set up at the Metropark Lido Hotel for the families, along with a 24-hour helpline. The desk handles an average of six psychological consultations each day, Wang said.

Medicine is also offered to relatives with ailments such as sleeping disorders, team members said.

Wang, who has a wealth of experience in disaster relief work, said the MH370 mission is more complicated because of the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing search and its long-term effects on the families.

To establish another channel to help the relatives, Beijing Huilongguan Hospital set up an office on Tuesday to receive those with mental problems caused by the long wait. A team of doctors will help relatives who might have long-term disorders.

The office has received several relatives since Tuesday, Wang said, adding that it might take a long time, or even a lifetime, for the relatives to recover from their ordeal.

Feng Zhixin is feeling the effects. When he first heard about the missing plane, he took the first flight to Beijing from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, where he works.

His 21-year-old son Feng Dong, an only child, who had been working for a construction company in Singapore, took flight MH370 to return to China.

On April 8, his son's birthday, Feng bought a cake and marked the event alone. He has been taking pills to help him sleep and has also been talking to doctors about his depression.

Zhang Youqin, an expert on sociology and social work from Xiamen University, said economic or financial support for the families might not be the sole or most important consideration, because the mental trauma might be even more damaging, especially for those like Feng who have lost their only child. The government and society as a whole should offer more support and help these families to rebuild their lives. Senior family members who have lost their only child should be given priority to enter nursing homes, she said.

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