Kuala Lumpur, March 12:
Search and rescue teams have been moved to the Andaman Sea to the south of Thailand to continue the search for a Malaysia Airlines plane that went missing Saturday, an official said here Wednesday.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Shahidan Kassim said the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) had widened the area of its operations in the hope of finding clues that may lead to the discovery of the missing plane.
“MMEA will aggressively intensify the search which is currently assisted by many foreign governments,” Xinhua quoted Kassim as saying.
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.
Earlier Wednesday, Malaysia’s air force chief denied reports that radar had detected the plane over the Strait of Malacca.
“I wish to state that I did not make any such statements,” Xinhua cited Gen. Rodzali Daud as saying in a statement.
But he said the air force has not ruled out the possibility that the Beijing-bound aircraft had turned back before it vanished from the radar. The belief resulted in the search area being widened to the vicinity of the waters off the west coast of Malaysia, he said.
An international terrorism probe triggered by two Iranians boarding the missing plane with stolen passports has not finished, with John Brennan, director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), saying Tuesday the possibility of a terror link could not be ruled out.
Asked if the agency could rule out a terror link in the case, the CIA head said: “No, we’re not ruling it out. Not at all.”
Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said earlier Tuesday that it appeared increasingly certain the two Iranians, Seyed Mohammed Reza Delavar and Pouria Nourmohammadi, were probably not terrorists, but illegal migrants seeking a new life in Europe.
Echoing Noble’s statement, Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s national police chief, also said authorities believed that Nourmohammadi was not likely to be a member of any terrorist group, and that he was trying to migrate to Germany.
Even as over 10 countries are scouring the waters around Flight MH370’s last known location, more countries like India, Japan and France have joined the massive search and rescue.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines said in a website update posted at 1 p.m. Wednesday that its “primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families of the passengers and crew of MH370”.
“This means providing them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodation, meals, medical and emotional support,” it said.
“As of now, we have 115 family members in Kuala Lumpur and they are taken care of by 72 different caregivers. At least one caregiver is assigned to each family together with a Mandarin translator for the families from China.”
The airline also said equal amounts of initial financial assistance were being given to all families of passengers and crew over and above their basic needs.
“This amount is extended to families of all crew and passengers in Malaysia as well those from other nation”,” it said.