The relatives of a dozen Chinese passengers aboard missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 began filing suits against the company at a Beijing court Monday, just a day before a legal deadline to do so.
Packed into a small office at the Beijing Rail Transportation Court, which has been designated to handle MH370 cases, they held manilla folders with litigation papers in their hands.
Several wiped away quiet tears, turning to borrow tissues from neighbours, before depositing their documents with court officials.
The flight, with 239 people -- including 153 Chinese citizens -- on board, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, and authorities said it went down in the southern Indian Ocean.
Under international agreements, families have two years to sue over air accidents.
But many Chinese families still believe their relatives are alive and were "deeply conflicted" over the decision to go to court, said lawyer Zhang Qihuai, whose Lanpeng firm represents the group who were filing suit on Monday.
"They think that after you've accepted compensation, the company can deny any further responsibility and wash its hands of the incident, and that the public will naturally forget about the whole thing," he explained.
The compensation requested ranged from around five to eight million yuan ($755,000 to $1.23 million) per victim, he said, depending on their age and earnings.
"Originally, many didn't intend to sue, and instead wanting to continue waiting. But there's a time limit, so they have no other choice -- losing the right to sue would be terribly painful."
Several US, Malaysian, Australian and Chinese law firms have told AFP that they have begun filing suit on behalf of relatives, seeking undisclosed damages.