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June 29, 2017

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Last known words of flight MH370 revealed

BEIJING--The last radio transmission from the cockpit of missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was "alright, good night," it emerged in Beijing Wednesday as relatives of missing passengers clamor for information.

The flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing vanished early on Saturday without making a distress call and no confirmed wreckage has been found, despite a vast search.

A total of 153 of the 239 people on board the aircraft are Chinese, and Malaysian officials spoke to passengers' relatives and friends at a hotel in the Chinese capital.

Malaysia's ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin said one of the pilots said "alright, good night" as the flight switched from Malaysian to Vietnamese airspace, according to Singapore's Straits Times newspaper.

Malaysia's department of civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman later confirmed to AFP that those were the last words from the cockpit.

The ambassador also defended the crew, according to the Straits Times, after an Australian television report that co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27, violated airline rules in 2011 by allowing two young South African women into the cockpit during a flight.

Relatives told AFP the event had been "orderly," in contrast to a meeting with Chinese officials on Monday, when reports said family members hurled abuse at government representatives.

Some attacked Beijing's own response as the crisis entered its fifth day.

"I think the Chinese government needs to be more active with this," said a man surnamed Zhang, whose daughter was on board, coming back from a business trip.

Chinese authorities have emphasized through state-run media that they are waging an "all-out effort" to locate the missing aircraft. Eight Chinese ships are taking part and China has expanded the area of its search, foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said on Wednesday. State media have said as many as 10 Chinese satellites were being deployed in the effort.

But users of China's hugely popular weibo microblogs lashed out at a Xinhua picture showing the chief of China's maritime search and rescue center sitting at a desk and speaking on the telephone.

"What decade is it, that they're still taking these kinds of photos?! Is it to prove that the leaders are keeping busy?" asked one user.

"I have no other feeling but disgust," wrote another.

At the hotel, relatives said they were now ready to accept payments of 31,000 yuan (US$5,000) which the airline had earlier described as "comfort" money, provided during "difficult times."

They had earlier asked for the terms to be reviewed, but one said: "I don't think this is an issue anymore for most of us."

A copy of the acceptance form seen by AFP says: "The airline offers the money out of kindness and it will not offset any final compensation."

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