SAN FRANCISCO — Family members and loved ones of passengers aboard the Asiana Airlines flight that crashed late Saturday morning at San Francisco International Airport searched desperately for information at the airport in the chaotic, oddly quiet hours following the disaster.
Japal Singh of Folsom emerged from a room set up as a comfort station at the international terminal, trying to find his brother and his family, who were traveling to visit him from Korea. He was relieved to hear that they were OK, but seemed flummoxed that he couldn't find them to take them to his home, even after meeting with airport officials.
"I'm just trying to get them, and trying to find out where they are," he said. "It's going to be a long day for all of us."
Outside the airport, traffic lanes leading into the airport were eerily quiet at midday, as signs for the international and domestic terminals flashed the words "closed." As weary passengers made arrangements to deal with canceled flights and lines began to form at booking counters, two young boys gamely bounced a tennis ball off a wall. Eventually, airport officials announced that two of four runways had reopened.
Meanwhile, airline representatives would not release a list of the passengers aboard the plane, said Patrick Abbott, 62, of Alamo in Contra Costa County. He came to the airport to pick up a family friend, Jeung Mi Hwang, who was on the Asiana flight and had been taken to the hospital as a precaution because she was pregnant. Abbott couldn't get information from airport officials about Hwang's whereabouts, but was able to reach her by cellphone, he said.
"She's six weeks' pregnant, so there's a concern, but Asiana refused to give a contact number," Abbott said. "The passengers went to nine different hospitals. The only way we found out, me and the other passengers, was by making direct contact with the passengers."
Hwang had escaped the plane with her cellphone, but nothing else, he said.
"She's lost all of her documents, all of her possessions, and we're going to have to deal with this, but it's a good thing she's not hurt," Abbott continued. "It's a traumatic experience."
Later, a group of about 20 people swiftly left the comfort station room, some with blankets draped around their shoulders, while police tried to shield them from dozens of reporters. The group was escorted through security gates and taken to an unknown part of the airport.
June Park, 39, an engineer from Palo Alto, was searching for a close friend he knew from graduate school who was aboard the plane, and was distraught when he didn't find the friend at his home.
"I kind of panicked this afternoon because I heard it first on Twitter, and then saw the news ... it was devastating," Park said. "I knew he was on the plane, because I talked to him before he got on."
Park later learned that his friend, who works at Qualcomm, was OK, but he still couldn't figure out his location.
"It's just that we don't know where he is," Park said. "Everyone's trying to figure out where they may be ... they're trying their best, and I'm trying my best."
By evening, flights at the international terminal had resumed. Late-night departures were scheduled to leave on time, but many earlier flights were delayed or canceled.