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Search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight widens

March 12, 2014, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Malaysia asked India to join the expanding search for the missing Boeing 777 near the Andaman Sea — far to the northwest of its last reported position and a further sign Wednesday that authorities have no idea where the plane might be more than four days after it vanished.


March 12, 2014
By The Associated Press

The mystery over the plane's whereabouts has been confounded by
confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian
officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board
the flight — two thirds of them Chinese.

 

"There's too much information and confusion right now. It is very
hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate,"
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing.
"We will not give it up as long as there's still a shred of hope."

The mother of passenger Zou Jingsheng, who would only give her name
as Zou, wept and spoke haltingly about her missing son while staying at a
hotel near the Beijing airport. She expressed frustration with the
airline and the Malaysian government over their handling of the case.

 

"I want to talk more, but all this is very stressful, and after all
it is my son's life that I am concerned about. I just want to know where
he is, and wish he is safe and alive," she said.

 

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing
early Saturday morning and last made contact with ground control
officials about 35,000 feet (about 11,000 metres) above the Gulf of
Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam before vanishing.

 

Dozens of planes and ships from at least eight nations are scouring
waters on both sides of peninsular Malaysia but have found no trace of
the jet.

 

Citing military radar, Malaysian authorities have said the plane may
have turned back from its last known position, possibly making it as far
as the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane west of the narrow
nation some 400 kilometres from the plane's last known co-ordinates.

 

How it might have done this without being clearly detected has raised
questions over whether its electrical systems, including transponders
allowing it to be identified by radar, were either knocked out or turned
off. If it did manage to fly on, it would challenge earlier theories
that the plane may have suffered a catastrophic incident, initially
thought reasonable because it didn't send out any distress signals.

 

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including
mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Both the Boeing
777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage
or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what
happened.

 

"There is a possibility that the aircraft, the flight, has taken a
turn back basing on the radar we have used to pick up the signal,"
Malaysia's armed forces chief, Gen. Zulkifeli Mohammad Zin told The
Associated Press. "We cannot confirm it, but, basing on that, even
though there is a possibility there, we have got to conduct a search [in
the strait]. We cannot leave it to chance."

Finding wreckage from a missing plane can sometimes take days or
longer, depending on the nature of the crash, the current and how much
is known about the aircraft's final movements.

 

India's ministry of external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said
Wednesday that Malaysian authorities had contacted their Indian
counterparts seeking help in searching areas near the Andaman Sea.

 

Malaysia's air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement
denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that
military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its
original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca
strait. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official,
who confirmed the remarks.

 

Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made March 9 in which he
said the air force has "not ruled out the possibility of an air turn
back" and that search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters
around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.

 

It's possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.

 

Even so, the confusion has prompted speculation that different arms
of the government have different opinions over where the plane is most
likely to be, or even that authorities are holding back information.

Choi Tat Sang, a 74-year-old Malaysian man, said the family is still
holding out hope that the plane and all on board are safe. His daughter
in law, Goh Sock Lay, 45, is the chief stewardess on the flight. Her
14-year-old daughter, an only child, has been crying every day since the
plane's disappearance.

 

"We are heartbroken. We are continuing to pray for her safety and for everyone on the flight," he said.

 

Indonesia air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received
official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above
the South China Sea, about 20 kilometres from Kota Bharu, Malaysia,
when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would
place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously
been publicly disclosed.