A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew went missing off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday and was presumed to have crashed.
There were no reports of bad weather and no sign why the Boeing 777-200ER would have vanished from radar screens about an hour after it took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. There were no signs of sabotage nor claims of a terrorist attack.
Asked for a possible explanation for the plane’s disappearance, Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya told a news conference: “We are not ruling out any possibilities.”
By late on Saturday night, there were no confirmed signs of the plane or any wreckage, over 20 hours after it went missing.
A large number of planes and ships from several countries were scouring the area where the plane last made contact, about halfway between Malaysia and the southern tip of Vietnam.
“The search and rescue operations will continue as long as necessary,” Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. He said 15 air force aircraft, six navy ships and three coast guard vessels had been pressed into service.
Vietnam dispatched two navy boats, two jets and one helicopter, and was readying a further seven planes and nine boats to join the search effort. China and the Philippines have also sent ships to the region to help. The US, the Philippines and Singapore dispatched military planes as well.
Malaysian search and rescue vessels reached the area where the plane last made contact but saw no sign of wreckage. Vietnam, meanwhile, said its rescue planes had spotted two large oil slicks and a column of smoke off its coastline, but it was not clear if they were connected to the missing plane.
In Europe, news reports and officials said at least two people on board may have been carrying stolen passports. The Italian foreign ministry said an Italian was listed on the flight’s manifest although no national from the country was on board. The Austrian foreign ministry said an Austrian listed among the passengers was safe and had reported his passport stolen two years ago.
People from 14 nationalities were among the 227 passengers, including at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans, according to Malaysia Airlines.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2014.