Efforts to try to identify debris from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean are unlikely to start again for at least another 24 hours, Australian officials said Tuesday.

Gale-force winds, large waves, heavy rain and low clouds forecast for the area would make a search dangerous, they said.

And the task ahead of multi-national team is formidable: a 2.2 million square mile area in one of the remotest places on Earth.

"We're not searching for a needle in a haystack," Mark Binskin, vice chief of the Australian Defence Force, told reporters. "We're still trying to find where the haystack is."

In Beijing, hundreds of friends and family members of missing passengers planned to gather at the Malaysian Embassy to express their anger and frustration.

Police prevented buses carrying more than 300 people from leaving the Beijing hotel where many passengers' relatives have been staying. The people then began to head to the embassy on foot.

Once they got to the street where the embassy sits, they found hundreds of police officers blocking it.

"We all feel enormous sorrow and pain," Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told reporters Tuesday. "Sorrow that all those who boarded Flight MH370 on Saturday 8th March, will not see their families again. And that those families will now have to live on without those they love."

Responding to a reporter who asked him whether he will resign, Ahmad said it was a personal decision. "We'll take it day by day," he said.

Malaysia Airlines said Tuesday it has offered family members $5,000 for each passenger aboard the ill-fated flight and was preparing to make additional payments as the prolonged search continues.

Little consolation

But that was little consolation for anguished relatives.

They were still reeling from the one-two punch of bad news a day earlier.

First, a grim-faced Malaysian Prime Minister confirmed their worst fears, announcing Flight 370 went down somewhere in the Indian Ocean.

Then, even as investigators seemed closer than ever to finding traces of the plane, stormy weather forced Australian authorities to call off a day of searching for the Boeing 777.

"It's almost felt like a miniature roller coaster within the day," said James Wood, whose brother Philip was one of three American passengers on the plane.

Families are stuck in a "holding pattern," he told CNN's "AC360."

"We're just waiting and waiting," he said, "and not getting any answers one way or another."

Bad weather blocks search

When search crews resume their work — most likely on Wednesday — they'll be combing the remote area in the southern Indian Ocean where officials now say they believe the flight ended.

"With eight hours of flying to and from the search region, the fleet of P-3 Orion aircraft and other military aircraft have only a precious few hours to scour the search tracks they have been given," Australian Defense Minister David Johnston said.

CNN's Kate Bolduan asked Johnston why he was confident that the plane crashed in the ocean.

"I am confident of that because that's the best we've got at this point in time," he replied.

New analysis of satellite data by a British satellite company and accident investigators led to that conclusion, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday.

"They have told us all lives are lost," a missing passenger's relative briefed by the airline in Beijing said.

Malaysia Airlines also sent a text message to relatives saying "we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that MH370 has been lost and that none of those onboard survived."

Reacting to the criticism the airline has come under for texting, CEO Ahmad said Tuesday, "Our sole and only motivation last night was to ensure that in the incredibly short amount of time available to us, the families heard the tragic news before the world did."

While the last-minute announcement appeared to end hopes of finding survivors more than two weeks after the flight vanished, it left many key questions unanswered, including what went wrong aboard the Beijing-bound airliner and the location of its wreckage in the deep, wild ocean waters.

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