Kuala Lumpur/Beijing, March 13 :
The Malaysian air force Thursday morning sent an aircraft on an eight-hour search mission in areas around Subang, Penang, Phuket and the Andaman Sea, but found no trace of the Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing Saturday.
At 5 a.m., the C130 Orion transport aircraft took off from Subang air force airport maintaining a height of 760 metres and flew to the Andaman Sea, covering the area around Subang, Penang and Phuket. But nothing has been found, pilot of the mission said, Xinhua reported.
Malaysia’s acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said Thursday on his Twitter account that the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) also sent an aircraft to the South China Sea where Chinese satellites have reportedly captured images of floating objects.
“MMEA’s Bombardier has already been dispatched to investigate claims of debris found by Chinese satellite imagery,” Hussein said.
It was reported that the satellite images showed three suspected floating objects of various sizes, the largest one estimated to be roughly 22 metres by 24 metres in size.
Aircraft and vessels sent out by Vietnam Thursday, however, found no debris in the waters where Chinese satellites reportedly spotted the three objects, Vietnamese Deputy Transport Minister Pham Quy Tieu said, according to a report from Phu Quoc.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 with 239 passengers and crew on board vanished without a trace about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early Saturday. The Boeing 777-200ER was presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.
The plane took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.41 a.m. Saturday and was due to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers on the flight included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.
Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. Saturday when it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh City air traffic control area in Vietnam.
Vietnam authorities dispatched two aircraft and two ships to the waters off the country’s southern coast, said Pham, who is leading a frontline command in Phu Quoc island.
In addition, the Vietnam air force sent four aircraft to scour the land area in Vietnam’s southern part. These comprised one seaplane, two AN-26 aircraft, and an Mi-171 helicopter.
However, these land area searches across the province of Kien Giang, located about 250 km from Ho Chi Minh City in the Mekong delta region, and U Minh Thuong national forest park yielded no clues, air force officials said.
In Beijing, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang said Thursday that China would not give up search for the missing passenger jet “as long as there is a glimmer of hope”.
Li made the remarks at a press conference shortly after the conclusion of China’s annual legislative session.
“We will not give up any suspected clue that is being found,” he said. “We are also looking very closely at all suspected clues showing on satellite images.”
Li said that the Chinese government has asked all engaged in the ongoing massive international search to enhance coordination to investigate the cause and to locate the missing plane.
Currently there are eight Chinese vessels in the area where the aircraft is suspected to have crashed, another one is on its way, and 10 satellites are being used to provide information and technological support, Li said.
The international search for the missing flight has so far involved at least 40 ships and nearly 40 aircraft from 12 countries.