Missing plane may never be found

Last updated 21:58 10/03/2014
Fairfax Australia

Investigations continue into flight MH370 as reports a door from the aircraft has been spotted in the sea.

Jet's disappearance raises questions

MH370
CRASH SITE?: Vietnamese authorities searching waters for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner have spotted an object they suspect is one of the plane's doors.

Missing plane: those who wait

MH370
Reuters Zoom
Malaysia's acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein holds satellite images as he speaks about the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 26.
 Malaysia Airlines
 

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Fears are growing the Malaysia Airlines plane that vanished over the South China Sea in darkness early Saturday morning may never be found.

Authorities in Kuala Lumpur have ordered the search for the plane be intensified after they discounted that objects reportedly seen floating in the sea on Sunday were from the aircraft.

Vietnam scrambled helicopters to check reports of a floating ‘‘yellow object’’ that rescue teams suspected could be a life raft from the plane, but it was merely the latest in a series of false alarms.

Sixty hours after the plane abruptly disappeared from radar the search effort involving 46 ships and 34 planes from nine countries had hit a dead-end.

The only hope authorities have is that samples of an oil slick taken in the South China Sea on Sunday will be shown in chemical tests underway in Kuala Lumpur to be from the aircraft.

Oil spills from ships and exploration are frequent in the area.

Azaharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Department, told reporters the plane's disappearance is "puzzling" and perplexing" and the circumstances of the plane's disappearance "unprecedented."

"We are intensifying efforts to locate the aircraft...we need positive evidence," he said.

Azaharuddin stressed that authorities will not give up on the search, referring to an Air France jet that disappeared in the Atlantic in 2009.

Its wreckage and crucial black box recorder were recovered two years after the crash.

"We will take as long as it takes to locate the plane," he said.

Azaharuddin said the possibility of the plane having been hijacked had not been discounted along with a number of other possibilities, including that it turned back two hours into the six-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

A pilot flying another plane who tried to contact the pilots in the cockpit of the Malaysia Airlines plane said he heard mumbled voices before contact was lost.

The pilots made no distress call. 

Azaharuddin confirmed that since the plane disappeared from the radar screen no signal has been detected from the aircraft's sophisticated equipment.

Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb, a source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical causes.

The missing plane apparently fell from the sky at cruising altitude in fine weather, and the pilots were either unable or had no time to send a distress signal - unusual circumstances under which a modern jetliner operated by a professional airline would crash.

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SEARCH FOR PLANE CONTINUES

Six planes and seven ships have been sent to search for wreckage in the area, but have so far found nothing, Vietnam search and rescue co-ordination centre chief Doan Huu Gia said today.

More than a day and a half after flight MH370 disappeared, no confirmed debris from the plane had been found and the final minutes before it went missing remained a mystery.

The plane lost contact with ground controllers somewhere between Malaysia and Vietnam after leaving Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning en route to Beijing. Two New Zealanders were among the 239 people aboard the plane.

Investigators believed the plane may have disintegrated mid-air, helping to explain their inability to find a concentrated pattern of debris.

TAIWAN WARNED OF TERRORIST ATTACKS

Taiwan’s spy chief said Monday that the island had received a warning of possible terrorist attacks in China as the mainland hold its annual parliamentary session.

Taiwan's National Security Bureau head Tsai De-sheng told a legislative committee that the NSB passed on a warning of planned attacks against the Beijing airport and the city’s subway system to Chinese authorities following its receipt on March 4.

It comes as China’s National People’s Congress holds its annual session, which opened March 5 and closes Thursday.  

It also came three days after a knife attack by a group of people at a railway station in Kunming, China, left 29 people dead.

Police also shot dead four of the attackers.

Tsai said the receipt of the warning prompted stepped up security measures at Taiwanese airports, particularly on Beijing-bound flights.  

However, he said it had no connection to the missin Malaysia Airlines flight bound for Beijing.

STOLEN PASSPORTS

Troubling questions have emerged about how two passengers managed to board the ill-fated aircraft using stolen passports.

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. 

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

A telephone operator on a China-based KLM hotline confirmed Sunday that passengers named Maraldi and Kozel had been booked on one-way tickets on the same KLM flight, flying from Beijing to Amsterdam on Saturday. Maraldi was to fly on to Copenhagen, Denmark, and Kozel to Frankfurt, Germany.

She said the pair booked the tickets through China Southern Airlines.

As holders of EU passports with onward flights to Europe, the passengers would not have needed visas for China.

INTERPOL HITS OUT AT AIRLINES

Interpol has confirmed it knew about the stolen passports and has commented how no authorities had checked its vast databases on stolen documents before the Boeing jetliner departed.

Warning "only a handful of countries" routinely made such checks, Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble chided authorities.

"This is a situation we had hoped never to see. For years, Interpol has asked why should countries wait for a tragedy to put prudent security measures in place at borders and boarding gates."

Thai police have said they were investigating a "passport ring" after it emerged that tickets were booked in Maraldi and Kozel's names on March 6 this year.

They were issued in the Thai city of Pattaya, a popular beach resort south of the capital Bangkok.

Malaysia's state news agency quoted Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying the passengers using the stolen European passports were of Asian appearance, and criticised border officials who let them through.

"I am still perturbed. Can't these immigration officials think? Italian and Austrian (passport holders) but with Asian faces," he was quoted as saying.

Authorities were checking on the identities of the two passengers who boarded the plane with stolen passports. On Saturday, the foreign ministries in Italy and Austria said the names of two citizens listed on the flight's manifest matched the names on two passports reported stolen in Thailand.

"I can confirm that we have the visuals of these two people on CCTV," Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said at a news conference late Sunday, adding that the footage was being examined. "We have intelligence agencies, both local and international, on board."

"Our focus now is to find the aircraft," he said, adding that finding the plane would make it easier for authorities to investigate any possible foul play.

In a forceful statement, the Interpol chief, who has called passport fraud one of the world's greatest threats, said he hoped "that governments and airlines worldwide will learn from the tragedy."

"Now, we have a real case where the world is speculating whether the stolen passport holders were terrorists," Noble said. 

"Interpol is asking why only a handful of countries worldwide are taking care to make sure that persons possessing stolen passports are not boarding international flights."

MISSING KIWI'S WIFE CLINGS TO HOPE 

The wife of a Kiwi on board a missing Malaysia Airlines jet says she has been unable to bring herself to explain to their young son why his Dad has not Skyped him from overseas yet.

Danica Weeks is desperately waiting for news of her husband Paul, 38, one of two New Zealanders named on a passenger list for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared off the coast of Vietnam on Saturday.

"I can't give up hope. I would love him to walk through that door, hold him one more time," she told Perth media.

She said Paul, 38, left his wedding ring and watch at home.

"[He said] if something should happen to me then the wedding ringshould go to the first son that gets married and then the watch to the second'," she said.

The couple have a three-and-a-half-year-old son, Lincoln, and an 11-month-old son, Jack.

While speaking to The Press today, Danica said that Lincoln - "Dad's little shadow" - had been asking after his father.

"I have not faced Lincoln yet. He still thinks that his Dad is going to Skype him," she said.

A psychologist was visiting her house this afternoon, because "I want to know how to approach it and not just totally freak him out forever".

 

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- AP, Reuters

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