File photo of a Malaysia Airlines B777-200ER aircraft. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
File photo of a Malaysia Airlines B777-200ER aircraft. Image courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
International

Day 4, missing Malaysia Airlines plane with 239 on board yet to be found

NetIndian News Network

Singapore, March 11, 2014

On Day 4 after it went off the radars while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing early on Saturday, search and rescue teams are yet to establish the whereabouts of the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft which had 239 people on board, including five Indians and a Canadian of Indian origin.
The Boeing B777-200 ER aircraft, operating flight MH370, was reported missing off the Vietnamese coast around 0240 hours Malaysian time on Saturday and is believed to have crashed into the South China Sea.
"As we enter into Day 4, the aircraft is yet to be found. The search and rescue teams have expanded the scope beyond the flight path. The focus now is on the West Peninsular of Malaysia at the Straits of Malacca. "The authorities are looking at a possibility of an attempt made by MH370 to turn back to Subang. All angles are being looked at. We are not ruling out any possibilities," the airline said in a statement in Kuala Lumpur this morning.
The last known position of MH370 before it disappeared off the radar was 065515 North (longitude) and 1033443 East (latitude).
The search and rescue mission has been joined by teams from countries such as Australia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Philippines and the United States of America. As many as nine aircraft and 24 vessels have been deployed to look for the missing plane.
The statement said that, apart from the search in the sea, search on land in between these areas is also being conducted.
"The search and rescue teams have analysed debris and oil slick found in the waters. It is confirmed that it does not belong to MH370," it said.
The airline said that the B777-200 aircraft that operated MH370 underwent maintenance 10 days before this particular flight on 6 March 2014. The next check is due on 19 June 2014. The maintenance was conducted at the KLIA hangar and there were no issues on the health of the aircraft, it said.
The aircraft was delivered to Malaysia Airlines in 2002 and has since recorded 53,465.21 hours with a total of 7525 cycles.
"All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically. Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed," it said.
The airline said it had set up a special task force to take care of families. Organisations such as Mercy Malaysia and Tzu Chi and others are also helping the airline by providing special psychological counseling to families and also the MH crew.
Chinese government officials in Malaysia are also working closely with Malaysia Airlines. A representative from the embassy is stationed at the Emergency Operations Centre to assist with the emergency management and matters related to families in Kuala Lumpur.
In Beijing, the Prime Minister’s special envoy to China, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting is there to assist and coordinate all operational matters with Malaysia Airlines.
"We regret and empathise with the families and we will do whatever we can to ensure that all basic needs, comfort, psychological support are delivered. We are as anxious as the families to know the status of their loved ones.
"To the families of the crew on-board MH370, we share your pain and anxiety. They are of the MAS family and we are deeply affected by this unfortunate incident.
"Malaysia Airlines reiterates that it will continue to be transparent in communicating with the general public via the media on all matters affecting MH370," the statement said.
The airline had said earlier that, when the aircraft is located, a Response Coordination Centre (RCC) will be established within the vicinity to support the needs of the families. This has been communicated specifically to the families.
Once the Response Coordination Centre is operational, it will provide transport and accommodation to the designated areas for the family members.
The airline's oneworld partners have been engaged to help bring family members in other countries, apart from China, into Kuala Lumpur.
The airline has said that it would not be able to comment on how two passengers with stolen passports had purchased their tickets for the flight because it was a security issue.
"We can however confirm that we have given all the flight details to the authorities for further investigation," it said.
The discovery that at least two of the people listed in the flight manifest -- an Austrian and an Italian -- were not on the plane and that those who had travelled in their names had done so on the stolen passports of the two individuals has raised concerns about a possible security breach.
Security and counterterrrorism units have been alerted to these reports and all angles were being probed, officials said.
An Austrian whose name figured in the manifest, Christian Kozel, told authorities that his passport had been stolen in Thailand in 2012. Italian Luigi Maraldi also had his passport stolen in Thailand last year, the reports said, quoting officials.
Malaysia's Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told a press conference two days ago that at least four names on the manifest were suspect, though the entire list was being looked at carefully.
"Our own intelligence have been activated, and of course, the counterterrorism units from all the relevant countries have been informed," he said.
Vietnamese media reports, quoting a statement from the High Command of the Navy, said on Saturday that the plane had crashed off Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island, northwest off the country’s southernmost Cape Ca Mau.
The plane had departed from Kuala Lumpur at 1241 Saturday morning and was scheduled to land at Beijing International Airport at 6.30am local Beijing time on the same day.
If the reports about the crash are confirmed, it would be Malaysia Airline's worst crash in its 19 years of existence. It woud also be the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in the past year, and the worst since it entered service in 1995. In July last year, three people were killed and more than 180 hurt when an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER crash-landed in San Francisco in the United States.
The airline said the aircraft, was carrying a total of 239 people, comprising 227 passengers (including two infants) and 12 members of crew. It also released the list of the passengers and members of crew on the flight.
According to the manifest, the Indians on the flight were identified as: Mr Vinod Kolekar, 59; Ms Chetana Kolekar, 55; Mr Swanand Kolekar, 23; Ms Chandrika Sharma, 51; and Mr Kranti Shirsath, 44. The list also includes a Canadian of Indian origin, Mr Muktesh Mukherjee, 42.
The passengers are of 14 different nationalities. All crew on board are Malaysians.
The passengers include 153 from China/Taiwan (including one infant), 38 from Malaysia, 5 Indians, 7 Indonesians, 6 Australians, four from France, three (including an infant) from the United States, two each from Ukraine, Canada and New Zealand, and one each from Russia, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.
The flight was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a Malaysian aged 53. He has a total flying hours of 18,365hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981. First officer, Fariq Ab.Hamid, a Malaysian, is aged 27. He has a total flying hours of 2,763 hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.
The families of passengers may contact +603 7884 1234 (Kuala Lumpur) / +8610 6437 6249 (Beijing), the airline said.
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