Missing Malaysian plane mystery deepens, no debris found

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Photo: PTI
Photo: PTI

Kuala Lumpur, Mar 10 (PTI): The mystery surrounding the disappearance of a Malaysian plane with 239 people aboard deepened today with multinational search teams still unable to find the debris from the missing aircraft after over two days.

“Unfortunately, we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft itself,” Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation, said at a televised news conference.

The Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 flight of Malaysia Airlines had 227 passengers aboard, including five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian, and 12 crew members.

Vietnamese searchers on ships worked throughout the night but could not find a rectangle object spotted yesterday that was thought to be one of the doors of the plane.

Rahman said Vietnamese officials had not confirmed to Malaysia, reports that debris believed to be from the plane had been found. He stressed that authorities were looking into all angles and aspects that could have led to the disappearance of the aircraft including hijacking.

Malaysia yesterday launched a terror probe into the disappearance of MH370 flight that suddenly vanished from the radar one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur Airport on Friday midnight. The probe was launched after it emerged that two passengers boarded the flight with stolen passports. Preliminary investigation also indicated that plane may have turned back.

Five passengers holding tickets had failed to board that flight, Rahman said. “Their luggage was off loaded and would not have been in the plane. All check in luggage was screened,” he said.

The list of passengers on board the plane included 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, 5 Indians, 4 Americans and 2 Canadians. The Indians have been identified as Chetna Kolekar, 55, Swanand Kolekar, 23, Vinod Kolekar, 59, Chandrika Sharma, 51, and Kranti Shirsatha, 44.

The plane has not emitted any signal from the time it went missing. A massive search operation was launched after the disappearance of the aircraft with 40 vessels and 24 planes scouring the Malaysian, Vietnamese waters and the Andanan Seas in a multi-nation operation.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said yesterday all air travel security procedures at Malaysian airports would be reviewed after the discovery that two passengers boarded the flight using stolen passports. Najib said air security protocols would be further enhanced if the review found it necessary. “At the moment, when we don’t have any solid evidence. There are surely many theories swirling about but they are not conclusive,” Najib said.

On the possibility that the missing flight’s apparent “turn-back” indicated that there was suspicion of terrorism, Najib said,”We have to find all possible leads and investigate before we can arrive at a definite finding.”

Royal Malaysia Air Force chief Rodzali Daud said yesterday that there were indications on the military radar that the plane could have made a “turn-back”. Authorities are also puzzled over the lack of signals from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) emergency beacon, which can help rescuers locate the aircraft.

In an air turn-back, a plane returns to its airport of origin as a result of a malfunction or suspected malfunction of any item on the aircraft. The airlines group CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said a turn-back could be launched when a pilot is unable to proceed on a planned flight path, and he would inform the air traffic control tower of his intention. “But no distress signal was issued. We are equally puzzled as well.”

The Australian government has joined the search operations for the plane.

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