Grieving relatives of the passengers of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 have said they refuse to accept that everyone on board the ill-fated plane is dead.
The Boeing 777 aircraft disappeared on March 8 last year, carrying 239 passengers and crew, shortly after taking off from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, bound for Beijing. Investigators have failed to find any trace of the aircraft.
Yesterday, DCA director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said in a statement: "We officially declare Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 an accident... and that all 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives."
While the verdict allows the process of awarding compensation to the families to begin, 100 Chinese families have demanded the statement is retracted until hard evidence is found which confirms the passengers were killed.
The relatives gathered to pray for the safe return of their family members at the Yonghegong Lama Temple in Beijing.
Zhang Qian, whose husband was on the plane said: "We don't accept it. As a matter of fact, we are demanding the statement to be retracted. I feel like I am giving it all up if we start talking about compensation. We don't need compensation, and we would be more than glad not to ask for a dime if my husband comes back to me," she explained.
Jiang Hui, whose mother was a passenger on the flight, said there are no facts to support the announcement. "We not only demand the Malaysian government retract the statement, but also issue an apology. That's the wish of the majority of family members," he said.
Therese Rando, a clinical psychologist specialising in grief counselling, said the absence of a body or wreckage to confirm death is a strong factor in the relatives' refusal to accept the conclusion as they suffer an "ambiguous loss."
She told the Associated Press: "For any family member to make the move to presume death in the absence of confirmation is a huge step. They need to have eliminated other possibilities; to do otherwise would be tantamount to prematurely abandoning their loved one."
Earlier this week, in anticipation of the Malaysian statement, 110 members in a group of 115 relatives of passengers voted to demand that Malaysian officials refrain from making any announcement, after officials revealed they are confident of finding the aircraft soon.
The undersea search for the missing plane has covered almost a third of its target area in the southern Indian Ocean, off the coast of Perth, Australia.
Mior Nor Badrishah Mohamad, an official of Malaysia's civil aviation department, told a press conference that 31.04% of the search area had been covered.
"Based on the available data, this is the place. If we cannot find MH370 within this area, we need to sit down again and decide what's the best way forward, based on the data we have," he said.
The search for the missing plane will continue with ongoing assistance from China and Australia.
Martin Dolan, chief commissioner of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, which is leading the search for the missing Boeing 777 along the so-called seventh arc in the Indian Ocean said the plane is "very likely" to be found in the Indian Ocean despite being submerged for more than 10 months.
The DCA plans to release an interim report on the investigation into the missing jetliner on March 7, a day before the first anniversary of the disappearance.