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Perth wants loved ones to be 'comfortable'

2014-03-28 09:33 China Daily Web Editor: Wang Fan

Bradley Woods is in a reflective mood. The CEO of the Australian Hotels Association (Western Australia) has just been told to find rooms for between 600 to 1,200 people - relatives of those killed on board Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370.  [Special coverage]

"That is just an estimate we have been given," Woods said.

"We'll not know for sure until wreckage has been formally identified, I guess, as to the actual numbers coming. But we have been asked to be ready just the same."

Woods and his team work from their offices behind the impressive state parliament building, laboring tirelessly to contact every hotel in the city.

There have been some suggestions that Perth simply does not have the capacity to take a sudden influx of up to 1,200 people, but Woods discounts that.

"We have the capacity and will be ready," he said.

For the past week now, Perth has been the center of a massive international sea and air search for the remains of flight MH370, which is said to have crashed into the Indian Ocean, killing all 239 passengers - mostly Chinese - and a crew of 12.

The story has attracted journalists from all over the world, and military aircraft and crews from at least six nations.

"They all have to stay somewhere," Woods said.

"So far, we have not had a problem coping with the influx."

Perth has around 11,000 hotel rooms and 30,000 beds, but it is coordinating availability on short notice that will be crucial and will test the association.

Woods said: "We have already put into operation a rolling database that can give us room availability on any given day.

"If the government asks us to set aside 'X' number of rooms we will be able to do it. So from that perspective we are OK."

This story, however, has become a major logistics exercise that involves the Australian federal government, the government of Western Australia, consulates and governments from 14 countries who lost citizens aboard flight MH370, Malaysia Airlines and dozens of investigators and aircrews from at least six nations, including China.

"They all have to find somewhere to stay," Woods tells me.

Accommodation and all meals for the relatives will be booked and paid for by Malaysia Airlines. As yet they have not made any bookings, just asked for availability.

Woods said daily menus and information for relatives are being prepared by a number of consulates.

As most of those killed on board the flight were from China, hotels around the city are making sure they have enough Chinese-speaking staff and cooks.

Woods said that once the wreckage has been formally identified as being from MH370, relatives will begin to come.

Some may travel individually, while others may prefer to come in a group to provide comfort to each another.

"This is a very tragic time," Woods said.

"We need to make sure all those relatives who lost loved ones and decide to come to Perth have as comfortable a stay as possible given the tragic circumstances."

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