Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews /
Agencies) - The international search operation for the missing Malaysia
Airlines MH370 flight has widened to the Andaman Sea, hundreds of miles (north-
west) from the point where radio contact with the aircraft was lost. The
Malaysian Civil Aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman says operations are concentrated
around the island of Sumatra. Meanwhile,
the Vietnamese government has halted its involvement in search operations,
pending clarification from Kuala Lumpur over the exact location of the search. The
Deputy Minister of Transport Pham Quy Tieu Hanoi said that "we have decided
to temporarily suspend search and rescue operations, pending further information
from Malaysia", he adds that not all operations have been disrupted, but will continue
on a smaller scale.
Confusion and uncertainty continue to shroud the fate of the March 8 Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, of which there is no longer any trace. Yesterday the authorities ruled out the hypothesis terrorism, explaining that the two passengers who were traveling with Iranian passports were bound for Germany in search of political asylum. Today, the search operation has been extended to both sides of the Malaysian peninsula, without any special developments. The route taken by the aircraft and its whereabouts remain shrouded in mystery.
There are also conflicting statements regarding the last known position of the Boeing, before it disappeared from radar. Rescue teams are racing against time to identify possible signals sent out by the black box, which in case of accident sends acoustic signals for the first 30 days. Search operations so far have involved 40 ships and 34 aircraft from various nations, as well as satellite and radar tracking from space.
For the fifth day in a row, most of the relatives of those on board are confined in a hotel near the Chinese capital's airport, waiting for some news about the fate of family members. Today, for the first time since the accident, the Malaysian ambassador to China asked to meet them, answering questions and explaining to them that "we are doing our best to resolve the issue". Some relatives of the 153 passengers on board of Chinese nationality even begin to criticize their own government. A man named Zhang whose daughter was on board the aircraft has said that Beijing "should be more active", "after all most of the people on board are of Chinese nationality".
The Boeing 777-200 carried 239 people, including a crew of 12, disappearing over the sea, just south of Vietnam. The passenger list included 153 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, as well as some Australians, Europeans and Americans. Malaysia Airlines has had a good safety record, with nearly four decades without an accident. Its worst accident occurred in 1977 when one accident left 100 people dead. In recent years, the company lost revenues due to the competition from low-cost airlines, including Air Asia, another Malaysia-based company. Every day, Malaysia's national carrier flies nearly 37,000 passengers to some 80 destinations worldwide. On Monday, shares in Malaysia Airlines fell 18 per cent to a record low