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Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

Last updated on: March 10, 2014 20:09 IST

Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

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The "unprecedented mystery" of a missing Malaysian plane deepened on Monday as no trace of its wreckage found even after three days of multinational operations, prompting authorities to expand the area of search and look into "every angle" including hijacking.

Hopes faded for the relatives of 239 people on board, including five Indians, as Malaysian authorities failed to locate the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 flight MH370 of Malaysia Airlines that went missing over the South China Sea on Friday.

"Unfortunately, we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft itself," Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, head of Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), said at a news conference.

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Image: An officer looks out of a helicopter during a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, near Tho Chu island
Photographs: Athit Perawongmetha

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Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

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"This unprecedented missing aircraft mystery -- it is mystifying and we are increasing our efforts to do what we have to do," he said.

Rahman said investigators were pursuing "every angle" to explain its disappearance, including hijacking.

Counter-terrorism agencies and the FBI are also involved in the probe.

He discounted reports that a plane door had been spotted.

"That report was not verified officially by the Vietnamese authorities," Rahman said.

Another report said the plane's tail had been found. That, too, is untrue, he said.

Officials also denied that the oil slick found in waters off Malaysia near the last known location of the missing airliner was from the aircraft.

An official said lab tests found that the oil was used for Tongkang, a light wooden boat used in South East Asia. 

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Image: A map of a flight plan is seen on a computer screen during a meeting before a mission to find the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, at Phu Quoc Airport on Phu Quoc Island
Photographs: Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

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Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

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Currently, 34 planes, 40 ships and teams from ten countries are involved in search operations. Rahman said the DCA is expanding the area of search operations in the next few days. He said right now they just cannot speculate what happened to the aircraft as it has not been found.

He said that besides searching in waters between Malaysia and Vietnam, authorities were also searching on land in Malaysia and off western Malaysia.

No emergency signal has been detected and family members of passengers are being told to prepare for the worst.

Malaysia on Sunday launched a terror probe into the disappearance of the plane that suddenly vanished from the radar one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur Airport.

The probe was launched after it emerged that two passengers boarded the flight with stolen passports of an Italian and Austrian. One of the two suspects, who travelled on the plane on stolen passports has been identified. 

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Image: A man looks out a window during a search and rescue mission onboard an aircraft belong to the Vietnamese airforce off Vietnam's Tho Chu island
Photographs: Reuters

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Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

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Rahman said they are probing a stolen passport syndicate and confirmed that the two suspects were not Asian-looking.

Rahman said all security protocols were followed by authorities.

Preliminary investigation also indicated that plane may have turned back, forcing authorities to shift their focus to the AndamanSea near Thailand's border.

The flight had 227 passengers and 12 crew members aboard. The list of passengers on board the plane included 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, 5 Indians, 4 Americans and 2 Canadians.

Indians have been identified as Chetna Kolekar, 55, Swanand Kolekar, 23, Vinod Kolekar, 59, Chandrika Sharma, 51, and Kranti Shirsatha, 44.

Five passengers holding tickets had failed to board that flight, Rahman said.

"Their luggage was off loaded and would not have been in the plane. All check in luggage was screened," he said.

Vietnam on Monday scrambled aircraft to check up if a lifeboat-like floating object found in Vietnamese waters was from the missing plane, official Chinese media reported.

The Malaysian official said the authorities were as "puzzled" as others over the disappearance of the plane.

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Image: Passengers queue up for customs checks at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang
Photographs: Edgar Su/Reuters

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Over 60 hours later, no trace of flight MH370 yet

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For the relatives of passengers and crew members, the wait has been agonising.

Among the passengers, 154 people were from China or Taiwan. The plane was also carrying 38 Malaysians, five Indians and three Americans citizens. Five of the passengers were younger than 5 years old.

In Beijing, family members gathered in a conference room at a hotel complex.

More than 100 people signed a hand-written petition that demanded "truth" from the airline. They also urged the Chinese government to help them deal with Malaysian authorities, CNN reported.

Malaysia Airlines, which was helping family members apply for expedited passports, said it will fly out five relatives of each passenger to Kuala Lumpur.

China's official media slammed Malaysia for its "slow" response in locating the jet.

In a hard hitting editorial, state-run Global Times blamed the Malaysian authorities for security lapses." 

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Image: Rescue workers pray for the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370
Photographs: Edgar Su/Reuters

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