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Friends tell of fears as hopes dim for passengers on Malaysia Flight 370

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
March 10, 2014 -- Updated 1129 GMT (1929 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Reports of passengers come in from shocked families and friends
  • One man discovers two separate friends on the passenger manifest
  • Chinese relatives in Beijing increasingly frustrated as they wait for information
  • Malaysia Airlines offers to fly next of kin to Kuala Lumpur as the search continues

(CNN) -- For Hasif Nazri, the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 contained a tragic coincidence.

Two friends from two different periods of his life -- both unknown to each other -- were on board the flight. But as time goes by, the 33-year-old Malaysian process engineer says hope is fading.

"I was shocked, really shocked to be honest, but now that shock is turning to sadness," he told CNN. "Of course, I'm holding out some hope -- all we can do now is pray."

His former classmate, Mohd Sofuan Ibrahim, also 33 and Malaysian, was scheduled to report for duty at Malaysia's Ministry of International Trade and Industry branch office in Beijing -- even taking a Facebook photo before he boarded the plane.

READ MORE: Still no sign of Flight 370

"We were at the same residential school and we shared the same dorm and stuck together in the dining hall," he said. "He was a good, kind-hearted friend, very helpful, cheerful and definitely no wallflower. He was a very good speaker and teachers remembered him as a very good student."

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Nazri then discovered another former classmate, 33-year-old Ch'ng Mei Ling, was also on board Flight 370.

He said that Mei Ling, a Malaysian national who worked as a process engineer at Flexsys America LP, a manufacturer and supplier of chemicals for the rubber industry based in Ohio, would always be remembered as a "very cheerful girl."

"She was very adaptable -- we had a lot of course work that we had to do together and she was very easy to work with," he said. "She was also very funny. As a Chinese person she used to like playing with the Malay language; her laugh was very infectious."

Desperate for information

In Mumbai, 23-year-old technology graduate Archit Joshi was also desperately seeking information about his classmate Swawand Kolekar who was listed aboard Flight 370. He said Kolekar's family were in Beijing and also desperate for information on their son.

"Swawand was very reserved but very, very intelligent," Joshi told CNN. "He was a bit of a techno-freak and he made a lot of circuits and projects at engineering college.

"He didn't have many friends, he was a bit of a loner, but he had all the attributes a good friend should have."

In China, meanwhile, home to most of the 239 people on board, relatives of passengers were increasingly frustrated Monday as the agonizing wait for news continued.

More than 100 people signed a hand-written petition demanding "the truth" from the airline by Sunday evening. They also urged the Chinese government to help them deal with Malaysian authorities.

Zhang Guizhi, the aunt of passenger Li Yan, told CNN that she had arrived in Beijing from her native Henan province in central China and remained uncertain about how the airline would help her obtain a passport to travel to wherever the plane is found.

She started crying when she mentioned her 31-year-old niece had traveled to Malaysia with her husband and four friends on vacation.

"Still no information and still waiting -- I'm not happy with the airline's arrangements so far," she said.

A man who identified himself as the brother-in-law of passenger Ding Lijun said he had just arrived from Tianjin, approximately an hour south-east of Beijing. He teared up when he said Ding had been working in Malaysia as a construction worker for a year and was making his first trip home.

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Flights to Malaysia

Of course, I'm holding out some hope - all we can do now is pray
Hasif Nazri, passenger friend

In Kuala Lumpur, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, CEO of Malaysia Airlines, said the carrier was making arrangements to fly next of kin to the country's capital as the search for Flight 370 continues.

"We'll be accommodating them in hotels around Kuala Lumpur," he said. "We have made an offer for two next of kin to be flown immediately."

Increasingly frustrated relatives in China, however, continued to demand more information. Some blamed the Chinese government, which they claimed had not come forward.

"I'm not going home until I know what happened," said the father of one of the passengers named as Yan Ling. "We've lost loved ones and they need to answer our questions. When are you going to tell us and what are you going to do? We still don't know if they are alive or dead."

Grief counselors were on hand in Beijing and in Kuala Lumpur to assist relatives.

"We have dispatched about 15 volunteers to Beijing," said deputy CEO of the Buddhist group Tzu Chi, Sio Kee Hong. "In Malaysia, we have mobilized about 60 people on a daily basis, 24 hours a day. We have volunteers providing care to the families.

"Those with frustrations, we will be with them physically (and) provide whatever assistance is required ... psychological support is the most important thing at this juncture."

READ MORE: What we know so far

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