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Asia-Pacific

MH370: Black box will be important, expert says

media The head of Mozambique's Civil Aviation Institute, Comandante Joao Abreu, shows a piece of debris found on a beach that could be from missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, in Maputo, March 3, 2016. Reuters

In Beijing, relatives file lawsuits for damages against Malaysia Airlines, Boeing, the engine manufacturer Rolls Royce, and insurance companies. In Kuala Lumpur, family members gather to commemorate two years since the Boeing 777 disappeared. Professor Josh Cohen, who wrote about MH370 a month after it disappeared, tells RFI that "once the first fragments of wreckage are found, the black box will become very important again".

Psychoanalyst and author, Professor Josh Cohen, on MH370 07/03/2016 - by Karen Burke Listen

Two years following the disappearence of MH370 from the skies, the aircraft is still missing.

Relatives of a dozen Chinese passengers aboard the missing flight, MH370, have filed law suits against Malaysia Airlines, Boeing, Rolls Royce and insurance companies - a day before the second anniversary of the plane's disappearance.

The two year anniversary date - 8 March - also marks the legal deadline to file law suits for damages. Under the International Montreal Convention, any court action to claim damages must be taken within two years from the date the aircaft should have arrived.

The total compensation requested ranges from between 1.3 million euros to 9.8 million euros per family whose members may have to wait another two years for the verdicts.

Even while suing for the wrongful deaths of their loved ones, many Chinese next of kin expressed their belief that the passengers are still alive, perhaps being held at an unknown location.

During the past few days, a piece of the plane is believed to have been discovered on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion, and another potential piece of debris has been found in Mozambique - but both discoveries have yet to be confirmed.

The psychonalyst and author, Professor Josh Cohen, wrote about MH370 and the "black box of the mind" in an article for the Guardian that was published a month following the aircraft's disappearance.

"The mind really does anything it can to find some kind of representation, some kind of image, to fill the void," Professor Cohen told RFI.

"And I suspect that the relatives will have survived the last couple of years on that basis. They will have found some narrative, some set of representations, that allow them to at least get through the day by imagining what might have happened.

"But there will necessarily be something terribly precarious about that narrative. It must always be unravelling in their minds and they must always be tormented by this sense that they simply don't know."

Over the past two years, the families' and the media's attention has shifted its focus from the plane's black box to recovering any part of the plane.

"I think probably, as time goes on, the first imperative ceases to be reconstructing exactly what happened," Professor Cohen explained. "The families want some sort of physical evidence that their loved-ones didn't just vanish into thin air. That would be the first thing to stem the kind of madness and terror that the relatives must be feeling.

"However, I think once the first fragments of wreckage are found, the black box will become very important again because, at that point, the minimal demand, which is just to know where the passengers landed and where they ended their lives, will give way to a need to fill in the gaps in the story."

The Boeing 777 aircraft, with 239 people on board, including 153 Chinese citizens, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014. Relatives of the victims have travelled from all over the world to Kuala Lumpur where the plane was last seen as it took off.

On the eve of the two year anniversary, Martin Dolan, the head of the Australian authority tasked with searching for the wreck of the aircraft, has said that he is confident the plane will be found "this year".

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