Malaysia

Disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

No trace of the Malaysian Airlines plane that has been missing for more than 48 hours has been found and the search and rescue operation has been intensified.

Radar readings suggest that the missing plane may have turned around after take-off so the search has been extended to the Strait of Malacca to the west of peninsular Malaysia.

There are 40 ships and 34 aircraft from nine different countries involved in the search, with the ships continuing their operations day and night.

Oil slicks have been discovered in the South China Sea between Malaysia and Vietnam, and some of that oil has now been sent off for laboratory testing.

There have been reports of debris being found, but the Malaysian authorities dismissed those today.

Suspicious passengers

Malaysia’s Director-General of Civil Aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, was under pressure in his press conference today, with journalists wanting to know more about the identity of two passengers who were travelling on passports stolen from an Austrian and an Italian citizen in Thailand.

Investigators have been examining CCTV footage of those two passengers.

Journalists are expressing frustration now about the limited information being provided by the Malaysian authorities.

There have been reports, for example, that the two passengers travelling on stolen passports are of Asian appearance, but the authorities are refusing to comment on this.

Another two passengers are also being considered suspicious, but little is being said about them.

The two passengers travelling on stolen passports actually booked tickets at the same time and were both booked to fly straight on from Beijing to Amsterdam. One was then reportedly booked to continue on to Frankfurt, and the other to Denmark.

Going via Beijing with Malaysia airlines would be a roundabout and expensive way to go to Europe if you weren’t stopping over for some reason in China.

There has also been mention of five passengers who checked in, but didn’t board flight MH370. Mr Azharuddin said that all the baggage belonging to these passengers was removed from the plane, and nothing suspicious was found in that baggage. He has insisted that there was no unaccompanied baggage on the flight.

Mr Azharuddin today used the words mystery and mystifying to describe the disappearance of the aircraft in the early hours of Saturday morning, when all communication with the plane was lost.

The weather was good, the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines both have a very good safety record, and the pilot was very experienced.
There was no distress call from the plane and no signal has been picked up from the aircraft’s black box.

The wing tip of the missing plane was damaged in a minor on-the-ground collision in 2012, but there is no real suggestion that this is a factor in the plane’s disappearance.

Security questions

Questions have been raised about security at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport (KLIA). Interpol did have the stolen passports on its list, but says no check of its data base was made by Malaysian immigration authorities in relation to those passports.

Mr Azharuddin insisted today that KLIA security met the standards set by the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration.

There is much talk about whether the missing aircraft was brought down by terrorists, but the Malaysian authorities are refusing to enter into this kind of speculation.

Mr Azharuddin said today that all avenues were being explored, and nothing was being ruled out, and that the priority was of course to find the aircraft.

International intelligence agencies are now involved in the investigation and the counter terrorism units of all relevant countries have been contacted.

It’s being noted that China suffered a terror attack that killed 29 people at the Kunming Railway station in the south of the country just over a week ago.

It’s more than 48 hours now since the Malaysia Airlines plane with its 227 passengers and 12 crew members went missing and relatives of those on board have been told to prepare for the worst.

With so little information coming out, there is mounting frustration and distress among those waiting for news, but millions of messages of support and calls for prayers have been flooding social media in China, Malaysia, and elsewhere.

For now, the fate of flight MH370 is still a deep and troubling mystery.

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