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Relatives sob as Malaysia confirms plane is lost

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A relative of one of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines, MH370 grieves after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. A new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing Malaysia Airlines plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday. Malaysia Airlines said in a statement to the families that “our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.” (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A relative of one of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines, MH370 grieves after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. A new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing Malaysia Airlines plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday. Malaysia Airlines said in a statement to the families that “our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.” (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A relative of Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines MH370, cries after being told the latest update in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. A new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing Malaysia Airlines plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday. The news is a major breakthrough in the unprecedented two-week struggle to find out what happened to Flight 370, which disappeared shortly after takeoff from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 passengers and crew aboard on March 8. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A relative of one of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370 grieves after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. It was the grim news that families of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight had dreaded for weeks, and on Monday they heard it from Malaysia’s prime minister: new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A relative of one of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines jet, MH370, runs out of the hotel in tears after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. It was the grim news that families of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight had dreaded for weeks, and on Monday they heard it from Malaysia’s prime minister: new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A relative of one of the Chinese passengers aboard the Malaysia Airlines, MH370 is taken away on a stretcher after being told of the latest news in Beijing, China, Monday, March 24, 2014. It was the grim news that families of the missing Malaysian Airlines flight had dreaded for weeks, and on Monday they heard it from Malaysia’s prime minister: new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing plane crashed into a remote corner of the Indian Ocean. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

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BEIJING (AP) — Relatives shrieked and sobbed uncontrollably. Men and women nearly collapsed, held up by loved ones. Their grief came pouring out after 17 days of waiting for definitive word on the fate of the passengers and crew of the missing Malaysia Airlines jet.

Malaysia’s prime minister gave that word late Monday in a televised announcement from Kuala Lumpur, saying there was no longer any doubt that Flight 370 went down in the southern Indian Ocean.

Relatives of passengers in Beijing had been called to a hotel near the airport to hear the news, and some 50 of them gathered there. Afterward, they filed out of a conference room in heart-wrenching grief.

One woman collapsed and fell on her knees, crying “My son! My son!”

Medical teams arrived at the Lido hotel with several stretchers and one elderly man was carried out of the conference room on one of them, his face covered by a jacket. Minutes later, a middle-aged woman was taken out on another stretcher, her face ashen and her blank eyes seemingly staring off into a distance.

Most of them refused to speak to gathered reporters and some of them lashed out in anger, urging journalists not to film the scene. Security guards restrained a man with close-cropped hair as he kicked a TV cameraman and shouted, “Don’t film. I’ll beat you to death!”

Some relatives staying at hotels in Beijing and Kuala Lumpur were notified in person of the imminent late-night news conference by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and some heard over the phone.

Some received a heads-up by text message, said Sarah Bajc, who has been awaiting news of the fate of her boyfriend, Philip Wood, ever since the plane disappeared March 8 on a night flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.

“Malaysia Airlines deeply regrets that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board survived,” the text message said, according to a version forwarded in an email by Bajc. “As you will hear in the next hour from Malaysia’s Prime Minister, we must now accept all evidence suggests the plane went down in the Southern Indian Ocean.”

Bajc noted that the prime minister’s announcement made no mention of confirmed wreckage, “so no real closure,” but she also said the time for grief had begun.

“I need closure to be certain but cannot keep on with public efforts against all odds. I STILL feel his presence, so perhaps it was his soul all along,” she wrote in her email. “It looks like the first phase of our mission has ended. Now Philip’s family and I will need some time for private grief.”

Wang Zhen,

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