Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Focus shifts west as Indian Ocean becomes latest search area for the aircraft and its passengers

The new search area comes after the Malaysia’s Transport Minister admitted he was no closer to finding the aircraft

Asia Correspondent

Six days after flight MH370 disappeared, the Indian Ocean has become the latest area that authorities will scour in an attempt to find the aircraft and her 239 passengers and crew that disappeared without a trace.

"It's my understanding that based on some new information that's not necessarily conclusive - but new information - an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean," White House spokesman Jay Carney said yesterday, without disclosing the nature of the "information".

"We are consulting with international partners about the appropriate assets to deploy," he told a press conference.

He continued: "There are a number of possible scenarios that are being investigated as to what happened to the flight. And we are not in a position at this time to make conclusions about what happened, unfortunately. But we're actively participating in the search."

"We're looking at information, pursuing possible leads, working within the investigation being led by the Malaysian government," Carney added.

His announcement follows a press conference in Kuala Lumpur where Malaysia’s Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said a search involving 12 nations and more than 80 aircraft and planes had still failed to uncover any trace of the Boeing 777.

“There is no real precedent for a situation like this. The plane vanished,” he said.

Mr Hussein strongly denied reports that data from the plane’s engines showed that it had flown for a further four hours from its last confirmed location and may have been intentionally diverted.

Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that investigators in the US were  examining whether the missing plane was “intentionally diverted” from its planned route.

 

The report said US counter-terrorism officials were examining the possibility that the plane’s course had been changed “with the intention of using it later for another purpose” and that its transponders were intentionally turned off to avoid radar detection.

It said said data downloaded automatically from the plane’s engines, suggested the plane flew for a total of five hours. Its final confirmed location was at 1.31am last Saturday, about 40 minutes after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. At that point it was heading north-east across the mouth of the Gulf of Thailand on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing.

If true, the information downloaded from the plane’s Rolls Royce engines as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring programme, suggested the plane could have flown on for up to 2,000 more miles and reached as far as northern India or even the north-west coast of Australia. It would expand the possible search area almost limitlessly.

But during a press conference on Thursday afternoon local time, Mr Hussein rejected the reports. He said experts from both Boeing and Rolls Royce were assisting the investigation and that the last transmission received from the engines was at 1.07am on Saturday morning. It had suggested everything was normal.

The plane could have flown on for up to 2,000 miles, reaching as far as northern India or even the north-west coast of Australia. The plane could have flown on for up to 2,000 miles, reaching as far as northern India or even the north-west coast of Australia. “Rolls Royce and Boeing teams are here in Kuala Lumpur and have worked with Malaysia Airlines investigation teams since Sunday,” he said. “This issue has never been raised. Since today’s media reports Malaysia Airlines has asked Rolls Royce and Boeing specifically about the data. As far as Rolls Royce and Boeing are concerned those reports are inaccurate.”

He added: “Whenever there any any details they must be corroborated.”

Mr Hussein also denied reports in the Malaysian media which claimed the police had raided the home of the plane’s main pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to determine whether or not he was encountering any psychological problems.

Read more: Angry families turn on Malaysian envoy
'Alright, good night' - last words from the cockpit revealed
Q&A: What we know so far

Earlier this week, Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said  investigators were focussing on four areas - hijacking, sabotage, psychological problems and possible personal problems of the passengers or crew. But Mr Hussein said: “The pilot’s house has not been searched.”

Neither Rolls Royce or Boeing have yet publicly commented on the report. Bill O’Sullivan, a communications manager with Rolls Royce, told The Independent on Thursday morning that any statement would be sent out by email if the company had one to make.

The report in the Wall Street Journal said the data has led investigators in the US to pursue the prospect that the plane may have been diverted by a pilot or someone else. It is unclear whether the plane reached an alternate destination or if it crashed, potentially hundreds of miles from where an international search effort has been focused.

Six days after the plane went missing, most reports had suggested that terrorism or hijacking had been largely discounted.  But the report said the new data raised a “host of new questions and possibilities about what happened” to the plane and those aboard.

The report said US investigators remained “fluid” as to the causes of the plane’s disappearance and that it remained unclear whether investigators had evidence indicating possible terrorism or espionage.

The flurry of claims and denials came as an effort to locate the plane spread out over more than 27,000 nautical square miles. Search planes had been dispatched to a site believed to be the location of where a Chinese government agency website said a satellite had photographed three “suspicious floating objects” on Sunday. It is unclear why it took China so long to share the information.

The location was close to where the plane lost contact with air traffic control but by early Thursday afternoon local time, nothing had been found at the spot. The Associated Press said the head of Malaysia’s civil aviation authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, had confirmed no debris had been located by the Vietnamese and Malaysian plans dispatched there.

“We are in the middle of a multinational search involving many countries and more than 80 ships and aircraft. This is a crisis situation. It is a very complex operation and it has not always been easy,” said Mr Hussein, the transport minister.

Earlier on Thursday, China continued to put pressure on Malaysia. Of the 239 people on board, more than 150 were from China. China has criticised Malaysia for the slow pace of the operation and what it has called conflicting information about the search.

Speaking in Beijing, Premier Li Keqiang, called for the “relevant party” step up coordination while China’s civil aviation chief. “We will not give up on any suspected clue that has been found,” he said. “This is an international and large-scale search operation involving many countries.”

The last definitive sighting on civilian radar screens of MH370 came at 1.31am on Saturday, less than an hour after the plane took. On Wednesday Rodzali Daud, the Malaysian air force chief, said a dot was plotted on military radar at 2.15 a.m., 200 miles north-west of Penang Island off Malaysia’s west coast at the northern tip of the Strait of Malacca.

But he stressed that there was no confirmation that the dot on the radar was Flight MH370. He said Malaysia was sharing the data with the US Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Security Board.

Malaysia Airlines has said that as a mark of respect to the passengers and crew on board MH370, the MH370 and MH371 flight codes are to be will be retired from Kuala Lumpur- Beijing-Kuala Lumpur route.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Richard Norris in GQ
mediaGQ features photo shoot with man who underwent full face transplant
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Your picture is everything in the shallow world of online dating
i100
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Life and Style
Attractive women on the Internet: not a myth
techOkCupid boasts about Facebook-style experiments on users
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on