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Malaysia Airlines now 'fearing the worst' for missing plane
Malaysia Airlines today said it was "fearing the worst" for its missing plane carrying 239 people and was working with a US company that specialises in disaster recovery to locate the ill-fated aircraft.
The plane had 227 passengers on board, including five Indians and one Indian-origin Canadian, and 12 crew members.
Officials from Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation today said they have dispatched three jets to join the massive search by six countries for Boeing 777-200 Flight MH370.
They said the search effort continued overnight to locate the missing plane. But the mission made little progress as they have not traced any wreckage or debris afloat.
"The search and rescue teams are still unable to detect the whereabouts of the missing aircraft" en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Airlines said in a statement.
"The airline is continuously working with the authorities in providing assistance. In fearing for the worst, a disaster recovery management specialist from Atlanta, United States, will be assisting Malaysia Airlines in this crucial time.
"Malaysia Airlines reiterates that it will continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public in all matters affecting MH370," it said.
A command centre would be set up either in Kota Baru, in Kelantan state or in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, as soon as it could establish the location of the missing aircraft, it added.
"The Boeing 777-200 did not transmit any abnormalities before the ground control centre in Subang lost contact with it," Department of Civil Aviation Director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said, adding that reports of the sightings of the fuel slicks out at the South China Sea was unverified.
Azharuddin said the plane had disappeared from radar detection at about 1.30am, roughly an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Commenting on how the names of the Austrian and Italian passengers, whose passports had reportedly been stolen, were on the passenger list, Azharuddin said: "We are aware of the stolen passport issue and are carrying out an investigation."
Italian Luigi Maraldi and Austrian Christian Kozel appeared on the passenger manifest list for Flight MH370. Both had reported they had lost their passport and both are safe.
Singapore has sent two warships and a naval helicopter to help in the search for the missing plane.
China dispatched two rescue ships to join the multi- national teams to locate the flight.
The stolen passports issue has sparked off concern whether there was possibility of a sabotage.
The US officials told NBC News that they were "aware of the reporting on the two stolen passports" and have found no clear link to terrorism, but they were checking into passenger manifests and going back through intelligence.
A senior US official was quoted as saying that "we have not determined a nexus to terrorism yet, although it's still very early, and that's by no means definitive."
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein today said his country's intelligence agencies were in contact with their international counterparts, including the FBI.
He said authorities were looking at four possible cases of suspect identities. "We do not want to target only the four; we are investigating the whole passenger manifest. We are looking at all possibilities," he added.
The list of passengers on board comprised 154 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, 5 Indians, 4 Americans, 3 French, 2 New Zealanders, 2 Ukrainians, 2 Canadians, 1 each from Russian, Italy, Dutch and Austria.
The five Indians, including three from one family, were identified as Chetna Kolekar, 55, Swanand Kolekar,23, Vinod Kolekar, 59, Chandrika Sharma, 51, and Kranti Shirsatha, 44.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak yesterday declared that the area of search for the plane will be expanded from the point of its last contact. Malaysia Airlines has said the last point of contact with the plane was approximately 120 nautical miles east of Kota Baru in South China Sea.
Meanwhile, China's emergency response team sent by the Ministry of Transport set out early this morning from south China's Sanya Port in Hainan Province to sea area where missing plane may have crashed into the sea.
After a fruitless search last night rescue teams are hopeful of success today. The only leads so far were the two oil slicks reported off Vietnamese coast. The slicks were each between 10 km and 15 km long. The slicks were consistent with the kinds that would be left by fuel from a crashed plane.
Two Chinese warships - Jinggangshan and Mianyang - are already on their way to the possible site of the missing jet, navy sources said.
The amphibious landing ship 'Jinggangshan', loaded with life-saving equipments, underwater detection facilities and supplies of oil, water and food, set out from the Zhanjiang port in wee hours today for search and rescue mission.
Another navy frigate 'Mianyang', which was on a mission in the Nansha waters, left for the suspected area last night.
The MOT has urged all Chinese ships passing the sea area to pay close attention and make timely reports.
"The rescue work remains challenging as there is no exact location of the possible crash site and it will take about two days for the rescue ship to reach the water," said Zeng Ying, leader of the emergency team. "But we will try our best."
Meanwhile, around 120 relatives and friends of passengers on the missing jet including Indian national Samved Kolekar, whose parents and brother were on the flight, were currently accommodated at a hotel in Beijing near the airport.
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When you begin, the kind of flak you get for anything an everything is disappointing.
These (terrorists) are people who kill children, kill Muslims, take sex slaves. There's no religious rationale.