Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: India and Japan join 12-nation search, but solid information is as scarce as ever

 

Asia Correspondent

Officials have admitted they still have no idea where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 may have disappeared and said that planes and ships from 12 separate nations were now searching 27,000 square miles of ocean.

Amid increasing frustration and criticism of Malaysian authorities for the seemingly contradictory information they have been delivering, officials said they had again extended the search area. Japan and India are the latest countries to join the effort, continuing on both sides of the Malay peninsula

On Wednesday morning, Malaysia’s ambassador to China told relatives of passengers in Beijing that the last words spoken with the pilots of the Boeing 777 were with air traffic controllers in Kuala Lumpur as the plane  neared Vietnamese air-space. “We are handing you over to the the zone under Ho Chi Minh,” said one of the controllers. “Ok. Roger that,” replied a pilot.

The latest news emerged as more details trickled out concerning the pilot and co-pilot of Flight MH370. Yesterday Malaysia Airlines said in a statement that it was shocked by reports made against its First Officer, Fariq Ab Hamid, who was the co-pilot of the missing flight.

A South African tourist told Australia’s Channel Nine that she and her friend were invited to sit in the cockpit with Fariq Ab Hamid and the pilot during a flight in 2011, in an apparent breach of airline rules. Malaysia Airlines said it took the reports “very seriously”.

 

“We regret and empathise with the families and we will do whatever we can to ease their burden,” the airline said in a statement. “We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones.”

Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the pilot, has been described as a "tech geek". A colleague of Shah's told the Reuters news agency: “He was an aviation tech geek. You could ask him anything and he would help you. That is the kind of guy he is."

Relatives of the 239 passengers and crew have been increasingly upset at the lack of hard facts and the often conflicting messages coming out of Kuala Lumpur. On Tuesday, it was reported that military officials believed the plane may have veered west and flown for hundreds of miles after its last known position fixed by civilian radar.

At a press conference on Wednesday, officials sought to explain the confusion by revealing that the suggestion was based on examination of a secondary, military radar. Analysis of recorded data showed a dot on the radar at 02.15am on Saturday, at a point around 200 miles north-west of the Malaysian island of Penang.

“We said there was a possibility of a turn-back. But we are not sure it was this aircraft. We are not sure,” said Malaysia’s air force chief, Rodzali Daud. “We did not track it in real time. We saw a recording of the data.”

In essence, it appears that officials know precious little more now than they did on the first day the plane went missing. Two passengers who boarded the flight using stolen passports and who triggered concerns that the plane may have been downed in a terror plot, have since been shown to be young Iranians seeking to migrate to Europe.

There have been numerous reported sightings of possible debris and oil from the plane, but all have proved to be red herrings. In the latest such incident, the Vietnamese authorities said they were investigating a report emailed from a worker on the Songa Mercur oil rig, who contacted them to say he had spotted what he believed could have been a plane on fire, to the east of Vietnam’s Cau Ma peninsula.

Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur on what should have been a six-hour flight to Beijing early Saturday morning and last made contact with ground control officials about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam before vanishing.

On Wednesday, Malaysian officials denied that their operation was chaotic and insisted the information they had been providing was consistent. Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the cousin of Prime Minister Najib Razak, said as time passed it was more likely the the search and rescue operation was turning into simply a search operation, yet insisted Malaysia would not give up until the plane had been located.

“We will not give up. We owe it to the family members,” he said.

Malaysian officials have not ruled out any possible cause for the plane’s disappearance, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Officials say until the plane is located it will be very hard to say what happened.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Supporting role: at the Supreme Court, Rhodes was accompanied by a famous friend, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch
booksPianist James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to stop the injunction of his memoirs
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
filmDheepan, film review
Sport
Steven Gerrard scores for Liverpool
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Bob Dylan
art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?