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Search for Malaysian Plane Now Covers 4 Million Square Kilometers

  • VOA News

Malaysian authorities say the search for a missing airliner has been expanded to cover over four million square kilometers.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein also Tuesday called for more international cooperation in helping narrow the search.

Authorities believe the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was deliberately diverted and flew either north toward Central Asia or south toward the Indian Ocean.

Over 26 nations are involved in the effort to find the jet, which disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

Authorities have refused to rule out any possibility, including terrorism, hijacking, or a mechanical malfunction.

​Beijing on Tuesday said none of the plane's 154 Chinese passengers appear to have links to terrorism or hijacking.

Huang Huikang, China's ambassador to Malaysia, said extensive background checks were completed on the passengers from the mainland. "China has conducted a thorough investigation on the background [of Chinese passengers aboard]. So far, [China] has not found any actions that jeopardized Malaysia Airlines MH 370 flight. So we can rule out the possibilities of Chinese passengers suspected of being involved in any kind of terror or jeopardizing activities," he said.

The ambassador also said China has begun looking for the aircraft "in the territory along the northern corridor" of the search area.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting the plane's intended route appears to have been altered by a computer system mostly likely programmed by someone in the cockpit with knowledge of advanced aircraft systems.

Speaking anonymously, U.S. officials told the Times the development reinforces the theory that foul play is involved and will likely increase scrutiny of the plane's pilot and co-pilot.

The search has been complicated because the plane's transponder, which identifies it to civilian radar, and other communications devices were disabled or shut off. Authorities are now forced to rely on imprecise satellite tracking data based on automated messages from the aircraft.

The search area is now so extensive that the U.S. on Monday called back the USS Kidd, a naval destroyer that had been looking for the plane in the Indian Ocean. U.S. officials say it makes more sense to look for the jet using long-range surveillance aircraft.
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