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Malaysia Airlines flight 370
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Flight MH370

Search for Malaysia Airlines flight widens as authorities defend handling of crisis

'We don't know where the aircraft is', admits acting transport minister

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 March, 2014, 11:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 March, 2014, 8:50pm
 

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Malaysian authorities tonight said they were searching two vast areas of ocean for a missing Malaysian Airlines flight with 239 people on board, as the acting transport minister admitted: "We don't know where the aircraft is".

After a confusing day of speculation as to the flight path of the aircraft before it vanished from radar screens, Hishammuddin Hussein confirmed that searches were underway in both the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea.

He said the operation was covering a total of 27,000 square nautical kilometres, involving 42 ships and 39 aircraft from a total of 12 countries.

"My heart reaches out to  the families of the passengers," Hishammuddin said at a press conference. "We will not spare any effort to find the missing plane."

During a fiery press conference he rebuffed reporters' accusations that the search had been chaotic and that the government had no handle on the situation, despite mixed messages over the plane's whereabouts.

“We have been very transparent to the public and the media...there’s no confusion,” Hishammuddin said.

“It’s not a matter of chaos...it only seems confused if you want it to be seen so."

He added: "This is unprecedented (for us)” and “not something that is easy” to coordinate, given the size of the search area.

Civil Aviation Department director general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said he could not rule out the possibility that survivors would be found as the whereabout of the aircraft was unknown.

"We still have hope" of finding the 227 passengers and 12 crew alive, he said.

Mixed messages earlier today added further anguish for families awaiting news of loved ones, sparking accusations that the Malaysian search operation was a shambles.

Vietnam this morning briefly scaled down search operations in waters off its southern coast, saying it was receiving confusing information from Malaysia over the possible wherabouts of the aircraft.

Hanoi later said the search - now in its fifth day - was back on in full force and was even extending on to land.

China also said its air force had expanded its search area both above and below water, without specifying how the underwater search would take place.

China's Premier Li Keqiang urged rescuers to mobilise all possible resources in the hunt for the jet, while the country's foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang described the operation as "pretty chaotic".

Both the Malaysian military and the country's civil aviation authorities had previously said the plane may have deviated from its original route towards Vietnam.

Air force chief Rodzali Daud was last night quoted by the Berita Harian newspaper as saying the plane was last detected by military radar at 2.40am on Saturday, near the island of Pulau Perak at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca, while a source told Reuters news agency that the aircraft had made a detour to the west and had indeed continued on to the Malacca Strait.

Rodzali later denied he had made the statement to the paper, further clouding the issue.

During the press conference Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said radar images appearing to show the plane leaving its flight path and heading to the Malacca Strait could have showed a different aircraft.

Further muddying the waters was a statement from a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam, who told the South China Morning Post that the Malaysian aviation authority had notified the Vietnamese shortly before the jet went missing that it had entered Vietnam's airspace.

"The Vietnamese authority then tried to get in touch with the missing plane, but received no response from the plane. The Vietnamese authority immediately told the Malaysian authority that it could not contact the plane," the spokesman said.

 

Watch: No idea where to look: the hunt for MH370 continues as mystery deepens

Aviation and counter-terrorism expert Chris Yates said: "If [the aircraft] diverted from its original flight plan and took a routing to the west to the Strait of Malacca, [it] may have been subject to a hijack."

Meanwhile, China deployed two military jets from Sanya, Hainan province, yesterday to join the search, adding to four warships and four civilian vessels already mobilised.

Watch: What we know about Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

Chinese nationals made up the majority of passengers on the ill-fated flight with 153, including one infant and one Hongkonger.

Yesterday, the identities of two passengers on the flight who were travelling with stolen passports were revealed by Interpol as Pouri Nour Mohammadi, 19, and 29-year-old Delavar Seyed Mohammadreza.

Both men had initially travelled from Doha in Qatar to Kuala Lumpur last month with valid Iranian passports, said Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble.

But when they boarded flight 370, the Iranian teenager was carrying a stolen Austrian passport belonging to a man named Christian Kozel, while the other man used a stolen Italian passport bearing the name Luigi Maraldi.

Earlier reports had indicated five suspect passport-holders on the flight but Noble said the other three passports had been cleared. "We continue to work with our member countries to follow all leads, and examine all options, including terrorism, organised crime and illegal movement of people," he said.

Vietnam's vice-transport minister, Pham Quy Tieu, pledged to expand the search area to 20,000 square kilometres of the waters in the eastern and northeastern part of Vietnam.

Reporting by Phila Siu in Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam; Danny Lee, Lana Lam, Sijia Jiang

 

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This article is now closed to comments

kieran.tsao
The Malaysian government are liars who are covering this up for some reason. A few days ago they said one of the passsport fraudsters were "definitely not asian" - and that he looked like Mario Balotelli (black). 24 hours later they release a picture of a light brown skinned Iranian, definitely not asian, definitely not black.
They are a mix of incompetence and compulsive liars.
scmpcuty
I am sorry to say it but i think, after following this tragedy unfold, the Malay govt appears to be ill-equipped in handling this crisis . It is managing this very poorly as the whole world watches on and just caught up in so much silly bureacracy and confusion what with shamans coming on board that its now nearly laughable. Allow more cooperation from other countries and stop this embarrassing show of incompetence!
kieran.tsao
Or lying.
norodnik
New Straits Times posted at 1434 the following article including colour photograph of raft: What a fiasco!
PORT DICKSON: A group of fishermen found a life raft bearing the word “Boarding” 10 nautical miles from Port Dickson town at 12pm yesterday.
One of the fishermen, Azman Mohamad, 40, said they found the badly damaged raft floating and immediately notified the Kuala Linggi Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) in Malacca for assistance to lift the raft as it was very heavy.
"We managed to tie it to our boat as we feared it would sink due to the damages," he said.
When the MMEA boat arrived, the fishermen then handed over the raft into their custody.
However, a Kuala Linggi MMEA spokesman said the raft sunk into the sea while they were trying to bring the raft onboard.
Read more: MISSING MH370: Hopes as fishermen find life raft near PD - Latest - New Straits Times ****www.nst.com.my/latest/font-color-red-missing-mh370-font-hopes-as-fishermen-find-life-raft-near-pd-1.509222#ixzz2vjMrUxPo
Hum-Balang
@kinte, I suspect in this part of the peace loving world people don't scramble their F22 & F35s and buzz the DEFCON 4 button whenever a jetliner's has gone missing. Only the USA does that! Why because they want to propagate their "Wars on Terrors", invented post 911 to mean a new kind of wars - one without borders boundaries or combatant country and one USA does not have to declare they are at war, i.e. the POTUS can fly a drone anywhere and order a strike. In any event the worthiness of throwing up this "terrorism" theory- whether it's intended to defer or deflect the future insurance compensation ? The right thing to do for Malaysia and China to pool their resources and find the blackbox, speculation should be kept minimum.
In all of the self-preserving declarations that appear hours after the vanishing, one appears untrue - that the Boeing jet 19 years old in design is 'state of the art'. Nothing that old can be state of the art, and obviously the avionics that should be there aren't. So perhaps for the future, both Boeing and AIrbus need to outfit their new and especially older jets to transpond or emit the essential flight data to the airports enroute [and not something that's manual or overridable]?
kuntakinte.kinte.16

Submarines not suitable to detect static object, therefore not deployed for SAR.
****www.malaysia-chronicle.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=241872:amid-queries-why-scorpenes-not-deployed-msian-navy-says-subs-unsuitable-for-mh370-search-ops&Itemid=2#axzz2viYeBHH8
****www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6l18ODE3ns
Uploaded on Jun 11, 2009
IN THE FIELD: France's Emeraude nuclear submarine is searching the crash site of Air France flight 447 off Brazil's coast to locate the plane's black box flight-data recorders.
****www.nydailynews.com/news/world/nuclear-submarine-joins-grim-search-air-france-flight-447-victims-article-1.376911
The urgent hunt for the black boxes of Air France Flight 447 received a boost Wednesday - a French nuclear submarine scoured the search area, listening for the data and voice recorders' pings before they fade away.
Or is there another twist to the story ?
****www.defenseindustrydaily.com/scorpenes-sting-liberation-publishes-expose-re-malaysias-bribery-murder-scandal-05347/
The Franco-Spanish Scorpene , the Malaysian government signed a EUR 1 billion contract with Armaris (now DCNS) and Spanish naval shipbuilder Izar (now Navantia) for 2 SSK Scorpenes and associated support and training. Both submarines have been delivered to Malaysia, though with technical problems.
Where is the problem ?
kuntakinte.kinte.16
Here we have now a plane flying across the peninsular Malaysia with NO ONE knowing it was there.
If this could have been terrorist hijack plane, Malaysia could have been severely decapitated.
Weren't fighter jets supposedly be deployed immediately of air craft missing off radar , or there is SOP
on how this can be deployed through paperworks and bureaucracy ?
The Navy have GOT to answer this and be transparent about this, this shows total national security issues been compromised.
dynamco
Flying low/ transponder off = suicide pilot /hijacked
Presumably Thai and Malaysian airforces scrambled to intercept ? if not why not ?
Have you seen the movies where F16's are scrambled to 'escort' the commercial craft - well they are there to shoot the aircraft (flying bomb) down if they divert from the directed course
Did that happen ?
gabrielle.anderson.353
It's not gone and has not crashed. If it's true that it flew off course then it's been hijacked & will turn up somewhere. Problem is that jet can travel along way, so could be anywhere it's fuel load takes it. For the sake of all on board I do hope they turn up soon.
ntmount
SCMP, pls correct your story today to reflect the RMAF General's statement below. You are reporting incorrectly.

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