Ever since a part from a Boeing 777 was found on Reunion Island last week, Grace Subithirai Nathan has been exchanging online messages through the night from Kuala Lumpur with loved ones of those on board Malaysian Airlines flight MH370.
"Everybody is really anxious. No one is sleeping," said Nathan, whose mother was on board the plane that disappeared in March 2014. "Before this, a lot of us thought it would be good to find something and have closure. But we would rather they're still alive somewhere."
The week-long wait for testing that can determine whether the Boeing 777 part came from MH370 is prolonging the uncertainty for friends and relatives of the disappeared. In nearly 17 months since the plane vanished with 239 people on board, no physical remnants of the aircraft have been identified.
"Finding what appears to be a part of the plane raises the level of hope for families, but it doesn't solve the problem," said Geoffrey Glassock, a psychologist who has counselled people bereaved because of the 2002 Bali bombings and 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
More information about what happened "gives them a structure to understand their grief, but it doesn't take away the pain of their loss. You're never going to remove that."
The part known as a flaperon, found on the French island of Reunion close to Madagascar in the western Indian Ocean, will be examined today in the same lab that scoured fragments of an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic in 2009. A suitcase discovered near the debris will be studied as well.
If the flaperon "is indeed from the aircraft, it will be physical evidence and that will take us a big step forward", Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said. Still, he noted, it's just a first step.
"The key will be finding the bulk of the wreckage and the black boxes if we're to piece together what happened in this tragedy," Mr Herdman said.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said the US, China and Australia were sending teams to Reunion, where a Malaysian team had been mapping and combing the area.
Wen Wancheng, whose son was on board MH370, plans to travel to Reunion from his home in Shandong province south of Beijing to join the search. He wished Malaysian authorities would arrange a trip for family members to survey the debris.
"The wing debris found on the island is only a small part of the plane, and there must be more, larger parts to be found," he said via online message. "I will go and persuade other family members to go."
Christopher Hall, chief executive of the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement, said: "There's no closure on this experience. As more is known, each answer just poses more questions."
- Washington Post, Bloomberg