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Beijing court begins compensation hearings for MH370 victims

A Beijing court on Monday began hearing compensation cases filed by the families of dozens of Chinese people who died on board a Malaysia Airlines flight that disappeared almost 10 years ago. The MH370 jet vanished on March 8, 2014, carrying 239 people — mostly from China — en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. More than 40 families have filed lawsuits against Malaysia Airlines, the aircraft manufacturer Boeing, engine maker Rolls Royce and Allianz insurance group, state broadcaster CCTV said. The families’ litigation requests focus on compensation and finding the truth behind the flight’s disappearance, according to Zhang Qihuai, a lawyer quoted by CCTV. It was unclear what jurisdiction the Chinese court has to enforce the claims for compensation against the defendants. Malaysia’s transport ministry and Malaysia Airlines both declined to comment on the hearings. Hardly any trace of the plane was found in a 120,000-square kilometre (46,000-square mile) Indian Ocean search zone, with only some pieces of debris picked up. The Australian-led operation, the largest in aviation history, was suspended in January 2017. Despite freezing temperatures in Beijing, several relatives of missing people, wrapped up in winter coats, were keen to talk to journalists. Jiang Hui, whose mother was on flight MH370, said Monday the opening of the hearing was “very comforting, and it is a turning point”. “The survival of the relatives during these ten years, the deterioration of their living conditions… This really makes us very sad. So I hope that the legal relief can be realised as soon as possible. It is not difficult,” he said. “Ten years have really been unbearable for us,” added Jiang. – ‘Very excited’ – “As a relative, I am under a lot of pressure because I was the first to go to court. But I am also very excited because it is not easy to reopen the court hearing after so many years,” said a man surnamed Fu, whose brother was killed. Each family filed for civil compensation of between 10 million yuan ($1.4 million) and 80 million yuan ($11.2 million), as well as moral damages of 30 million yuan ($4.2 million) to 40 million yuan ($5.6 million), CCTV reported. The broadcaster added that the families of more than 110 other passengers have already reached a settlement with the defendants and received between 2.5 million and 3 million yuan. The hearing was not listed on the court’s public website, but Jiang wrote on social media this month the court hearings would continue until mid-December. A US exploration firm launched a private hunt for MH370 in 2018, but it ended after several months of scouring the seabed without success. The disappearance of the plane has long been the subject of a host of theories — ranging from the credible to outlandish — including that veteran pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah had gone rogue. In 2016, Malaysian officials revealed the pilot had plotted a path over the Indian Ocean on a home flight simulator but stressed this did not prove he deliberately crashed the plane. A final report into the tragedy released in 2018 pointed to failings by air traffic control and said the course of the plane was changed manually. But they failed to come up with any firm conclusions, leaving relatives angry and disappointed.

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