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MH370 Passengers' Families Start Receiving $50,000 Payouts

BEIJING - Families of passengers missing since Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished have started receiving payments of $50,000 each, officials said Friday.

A spokeswoman for Malaysia's foreign ministry confirmed that some payouts had been made, but was unable to comment on how many families had received them.

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There has been no sign of the Boeing 777 that disappeared carrying 239 passengers and crew on March 8 as it flew from Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

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Insurers led by Germany’s Allianz are assessing claims of more than 40 Chinese families. Missing passengers’ relatives can claim up to $175,000 each, according to the BBC News.

An Allianz spokeswoman told NBC News that "immediate payments were offered to the relatives of passengers on board MH370 at the time of its disappearance."

She did not offer further details of the amount offered or the number of people who had taken the payments.

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The search for the plane across a wide swathe of the ocean off the western coast of Australia is set to be the most costly in aviation history.

The Malaysian government has been broadly criticized for its handling of the disaster, and treatment of the passengers’ loved ones, more than half of whom are Chinese.

- Ed Flanagan, Arata Yamamoto and F. Brinley Bruton