Malaysia Airlines plane: Oil slick is first sign that missing flight crashed into sea killing up to 239 on board

Flight from Kuala Lumpur was expected to land in Beijing on Friday night

The Vietnamese air force has spotted two large oil slicks off the country's southern tip, suspected to be from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane that went missing on Saturday.

The traces of oil were each between six miles and nine miles long, and were consistent with the kinds that would be left by fuel from a crashed jetliner, officials said.

Over two hundred passengers were on board Flight MH370 bound to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, when it disappeared from Malaysian air traffic control screens.

Christian Kozel, 30, from Austria, and Luigi Maraldi, 37, from Italy were listed among the passengers on the flight, but were not on board, officials in both European countries confirmed on Saturday, and at least one of them had had his passport stolen.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Vienna said the Austrian national was safe at home, but that his passport stolen while travelling in Thailand two years ago.

No Italian passengers were on the flight, according to the country's Foreign Ministry, despite the inclusion of Maraldi's name on the list. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Maraldi's passport was also stolen.

Asked whether terrorism was suspected, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said, "We are looking at all possibilities, but it is too early to make any conclusive remarks."

"The search and rescue operations will continue as long as necessary,"he added.

The aircraft was crossing between Malaysia and Vietnam when contact broke down at 1:30am Saturday (18:40 GMT Friday), around two hours after it had taken off, according to Azaharudin Abdul Rahman, Maslaysia's civil aviation chief.

The plane expected at Beijing at 6:30am on Saturday (22:30 GMT Friday) was carrying 227 passengers, including at least five infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said.

It added there were 153 passengers from China, 38 from Malaysia, seven each from Indonesia and Australia, five from India, four from the U.S. and others from Indonesia, France, New Zealand, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

 

There were no reports of bad weather and no obvious reason why the aircraft would have vanished from radar screens.

Ships and planes from Southeast Asian nations, including 15 air force aircraft, six navy ships and three coast guard vessels from Malaysia, continue to scour the seas.

No wreckage has yet been spotted, and Vietnamese fishermen in the area have also been asked to report any suspected sign of the missing plane.

A Vietnamese search and rescue official, Pham Hien, said the last signal detected from the plane was 120 nautical miles (140 miles or 225 km) southwest of Vietnam's southernmost Ca Mau province, which is close to where the South China Sea meets the Gulf of Thailand.

Simon Calder: Boeing 777 is still one of the world's safest planes

In a call with the Malaysian Prime Minister, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged Malaysia on Saturday to quickly and vigorously push search and rescue work for the plane, state news agency Xinhua said.

Chinese relatives of passengers on the flight angrily accused the airline of keeping them in the dark, while state media criticised the carrier's poor response.

Relatives were taken to a hotel near Beijing airport, put in a room and told to wait for information from the airline, but no one met them.

About 20 people stormed out of the room at one point, enraged they had been given no information.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said:"Our team is currently calling the next-of-kin of passengers and crew. Focus of the airline is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilize its full support." 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members," he added.

A woman surrounded by media covers her mouth on her arrival at a hotel which is prepared for relatives or friends of passengers aboard a missing airplane, in Beijing, China A woman surrounded by media covers her mouth on her arrival at a hotel which is prepared for relatives or friends of passengers aboard a missing airplane, in Beijing, China

There was no indication that the pilots sent a distress signal and the fact that there was apparently no call for help suggests that whatever happened to the flight occurred quickly, he contined.

According to a government statement, Lieutenant General Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese army, said the plane “lost all contact and radar signal one minute before it entered Vietnam's air traffic control”.

As the South China Sea is a tense region with competing territorial claims that have led to several low-level conflicts, particularly between China and the Philippines, Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said authorities had "no information" if terrorism was the cause, but added “we are looking at all possibilities.“

Malaysian Airlines has a good safety record, as does the 777, which had not had a fatal crash in its 19-year history until an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers, all teenagers from China.

Additional reporting by AP

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible