Malaysia grand prix pushes grieving families of jet passengers from hotel

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 Fri Mar 21, 2014 7:41am EDT

KUALA LUMPUR, March 21 (Reuters) - Chinese relatives of the passengers on the missing Malaysian jet have changed hotels to make way for crews arriving for the Malaysian grand prix after two weeks of searches that have yielded little more than fresh questions.

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, carrying 239 passengers and crew, went missing on March 8 about an hour after take-off from Kuala Lumpur en route for Beijing.

An international team searching the southern Indian Ocean has not turned up anything, and Australia's deputy prime minister said suspected debris spotted on satellite pictures may have sunk.

Some Chinese family members who flew to the Southeast Asian nation to be closer to the heart of search operations had been staying at the Cyberview Resort & Spa near Kuala Lumpur, where they were engaged in what was at times an emotional struggle to elicit information from the government.

"The Chinese families were here, but they have already left. We are fully booked. There is no space because of Formula One," a woman who answered the phone at the resort told Reuters.

She did not give her name and said she did not know where the families would be staying. Malaysian officials said the families would be put up at another hotel.

On Wednesday, grief turned to anger when several family members unfurled a protest banner in front of a throng of journalists, demanding more information from the Malaysian government. The ruckus prompted police to escort the relatives, including a distraught mother, away from the briefing room.

The grand prix is one of the biggest sporting events in Malaysia, when room rates at some hotels soar as drivers, their teams and sponsors travel to Kuala Lumpur for the weekend race.

Several foreign officials, investigators and journalists are also being forced by the event to move out of a hotel near the Kuala Lumpur international airport, which had become the ad hoc headquarters for coordinating search operations.

"We will be moving out of here because the F1 race is going to go on," Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said.

Technicians are arriving well in advance of the March 30 race, which takes place about 10 minutes from the airport. (Reporting by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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