Malaysia Airlines Flight 370: Weather stops plane hunt as China demands data

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Efforts to try to identify debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean are unlikely to start again for "at least another 24 hours," Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said Tuesday.

"We're not searching for a needle in a haystack. We're still trying to define where the haystack is," Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, said Tuesday.

The news is sure to further upset family members whose loved ones were aboard the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

For them, Monday was full of news they were dreading.

First, a grim-faced Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed their worst fears, announcing Flight 370 went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

Then, even as investigators seemed closer than ever to finding traces of the plane, stormy weather forced Australian authorities to call off a day of searching for the Boeing 777.

"It's almost felt like a miniature roller coaster within the day," said James Wood, whose brother Philip was one of three American passengers on the plane.

Families are stuck in a "holding pattern," he told CNN's "AC360."

"We're just waiting and waiting," he said, "and not getting any answers one way or another."

In Beijing, hundreds of friends and family members of missing passengers from the flight planned to gather outside the Malaysian Embassy on Tuesday to express their anger and frustration at Malaysian authorities.

Police prevented buses carrying more than 300 people from leaving the Beijing hotel where many passengers' relatives have been staying. The people then began to head to the embassy on foot.

Once they got to the street where the embassy sits, they found hundreds of police officers blocking it.

"We all feel enormous sorrow and pain," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told reporters Tuesday. "Sorrow that all those who boarded Flight MH370 on Saturday 8th March, will not see their families again. And that those families will now have to live on without those they love."

Malaysia Airlines said Tuesday it has offered family members $5,000 for each passenger aboard the ill-fated flight and was preparing to make additional payments as the prolonged search continues.

But that was little consolation for anguished relatives.

Bad weather blocks search

In the part of the Indian Ocean where search efforts are now focused, gale-force winds, large waves, heavy rain and low clouds were forecast for Tuesday. That would make "any air and sea search activities hazardous and pose a risk to crew," the Australian Maritime Safety Authority said.

Teams will resume searching Wednesday if weather permits, officials said.

When they start looking again, they'll be combing the remote area in the southern Indian Ocean where officials now say they believe the flight ended.

CNN's Kate Bolduan asked the Australian Defense Minister whether he was confident that the plane ended in the ocean.

"I am confident of that because that's the best we've got at this point in time," he replied.

New analysis of satellite data by a British satellite company and accident investigators led to that conclusion, Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday.

"They have told us all lives are lost," a missing passenger's relative briefed by the airline in Beijing said.

Malaysia Airlines also sent a text message to relatives saying "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived."

Reacting to the criticism the airline has come under for texting, CEO Ahmad said Tuesday, "Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that in the incredibly short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did. Wherever humanly possible, we did so in person with the families or by telephone, using SMS only as an additional means of ensuring fully that the nearly 1,000 family members heard the news from us and not from the media."

While the last-minute announcement appeared to end hopes of finding survivors more than two weeks after the flight vanished, it left many key questions unanswered, including what went wrong aboard the Beijing-bound airliner and the location of its wreckage in the deep, wild ocean waters.

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