Perth is gearing up for a likely influx of heartbroken families desperate to be closer to their lost loved ones who were aboard Malaysian Airlines flight 370 when it went missing more than two weeks ago.
The multi-nation search for debris from the MH370, being coordinated out of RAAF Pearce north of the city, was temporarily halted on Tuesday due to poor weather in the Indian Ocean.
When the search does resume, attention will once again be focused on an area of ocean more than 2000km off the West Australian coastline, believed to be the plane’s final resting place.
The WA capital is already preparing for the arrival of family members of the 239 people aboard the plane when it went down, with Malaysia Airlines having revealed the Australian government would grant them visas once it was confirmed debris from MH370 had been found.
The airline will then help family members travel to Australia.
Sammy Yap, president of Perth’s Chung-Wah Association, said the city’s large Chinese network was ready to assist the families physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“We stand ready to help in any way we can,” said Mr Yap.
“Perth is a city which will try to ease their pain, and help them come to terms with their loss.”
It is believed the federal and WA governments are also discussing establishing a reception centre for bereaved families from China and elsewhere.
Buddhist temples around the city would be on hand to offer spiritual comfort, Mr Yap said.
Perth councillor Lily Chen, the president of the Australian Chinese Women’s Federation, said emotional support would also be available.
“We will be able to offer them comfort in any form, it is very important to ease the mental stress, sadness and shock,” Ms Chen said.
Visa fees are expected to be waived for the families of passengers on the doomed flight, which included 152 Chinese nationals, while Defence Minister David Johnston said the logistical issues surrounding the arrival of grieving families were still being considered.
“The PM is very fixed on assisting Malaysia with the families of the crew and passengers,” Senator Johnston said.
Fremantle Port Authority spokeswoman Ainslie De Vos said the port had not been approached about facilitating the delivery of any objects that might be found in the ocean, but was ready to help if and when needed.
Premier Colin Barnett said whatever assistance the commonwealth required would be provided through the state’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.
“We are in discussions with them,” Mr Barnett told AAP.
“We will do whatever we can to welcome these families to Western Australia at this very sad time and assist with their stay here.”
By Tim Clarke, AAP
IMAGE: A ground controller guides a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion to rest upon its return from a search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 over the Indian Ocean, at RAAF Pearce air base, in Perth, Monday, March 24, 2014. The search is being conducted in an area 2,500km off the South West coast of Perth after the Malaysian Airways aircraft went missing on March 8, 2014 whilst on a flight between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing. (AAP Image/Reuters Pool, Jason Reed)