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Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Oil slicks in South China Sea ‘not from missing jet’, officials say

More than two days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, the final minutes before its disappearance remain a mystery
  • @AndrewBuncombe

The oil slicks found off the coast of Malaysia during the search for Flight MH370 were not caused by the missing jet, authorities have said.

Laboratory analysis on the oil, which was first spotted on Saturday night, found that it had nothing to do with the Malaysia Airlines jet that disappeared almost three days ago, Malaysian officials have confirmed.

Earlier the crew from a Vietnamese jet reported seeing a “ possible life raft” floating in the sea around 250 miles off the country’s southern coast, only for search and rescue helicopters to later find it was no more than “a moss-covered cap of cable reel”.

Speaking at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur this morning, the director-general of Malaysia's Civil Aviation body, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said officials were still struggling with an “ unprecedented aviation mystery”.

“Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft,” he said. “As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft, we have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible.”

As authorities dismiss each potential clue to the whereabouts of the missing Boeing 777, attention has increasingly turned to the identities of the two passengers confirmed to be travelling on stolen European passports.

This afternoon Malaysian officials said both the men had “ non-Asian” features - contradicting previous suggestions otherwise from the country's interior minister.

Asked to explain what he meant, Mr Rahman said they looked like the Italian footballer Mario Balotelli, but refused to elaborate further.

Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said that one has now been identified, but that he could not reveal his identity beyond confirming that he was not Malaysian.

Mr Rahman also said that five passengers who checked in for the flight but who did not board, had had their luggage removed and checked. Nothing untoward was found.

Almost three days after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went missing, the final minutes before its disappearance remain a mystery. The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Malaysian military officials said on Sunday that the plane, a Boeing 777-200ER, may have turned back from its scheduled route shortly before vanishing from radar screens.

Mr Rahman said officials had set no time-frame for the search and referred to the search for Air France flight 447 which went missing in 2009 on route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris, killing all 228 aboard.

It took investigators two years to locate the black box recorders and three years to piece together what happened. A report eventually blamed a combination of technical failure and pilot error.

"The experts have said this is a very big area for us to cover," Mr Rahman said of the area currently being searched. "We all have to work together to find this aircraft... It will take as long as it takes to find the aircraft."

Family members comfort Chrisman Siregar (left) and his wife Herlina Panjaitan, the parents of Firman Siregar, one of the Indonesian citizens thought to have boarded the Malaysia Airlines jetliner

A total of 34 aircraft and 40 ships from Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, China and the United States have been deployed to the area where ground controllers lost contact with the plane, the maritime border between Malaysia and Vietnam.

Of the 227 passengers and 12 crew members on board, two-thirds were Chinese, while the rest were from elsewhere in Asia, Europe and North America. Five Indians were among the passengers.

The thefts of the two passports - one belonging to Austrian Christian Kozel and the other to Luigi Maraldi of Italy - were entered into Interpol's database after they were stolen in Thailand in 2012 and last year, the police body said.

But no authorities in Malaysia or elsewhere checked the passports against the database of 40 million stolen or lost travel documents before the Malaysia Airlines plane took off.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said it was working to provide relatives of those on board the flight visas and flights to enable them to travel to Kuala Lumpur, if they wished.

"Malaysia Airlines' primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families," it said in a statement. "This means providing them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodation, meals, medical and emotional support. The costs for these are all borne by Malaysia Airlines."