World News

Search for Missing Malaysian Flight Intensifies, as do Questions

A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, March 8, 2014.A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, March 8, 2014.
x
A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, March 8, 2014.
A relative of a passenger onboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 cries as she talks on her mobile phone at the Beijing Capital International Airport in Beijing, China, March 8, 2014.
William IdeRebecca Valli
It has been more than a day and a half since Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished on its way to Beijing, and the fate of the more than 200 people on board is still unknown.  A massive search and rescue is under way in waters off the coast of Malaysia and Vietnam where the plane presumably crashed. As the hours pass there are more questions than answers about what happened.

Malaysian authorities say an expansive and intensive search for the plane is under way with support from four other countries, including China and the United States. Authorities say some 40 ships and 22 planes are helping out.
 
Much of the focus so far has been on waters off Vietnam's southwestern coast, where a large oil slick has been spotted, but now Malaysian authorities say the search effort has extended to land and sea off the western Malaysian coast near Penang.
 
"What we have done is actually look into the recording on the radar that we have and we realized there is a possibility the aircraft did make a turnback," said Royal Malaysian Air Force chief Rodzali Daud.
 
Aviation safety experts say the possibility that the plane turned back at cruising altitude suggests that something had gone wrong and that it may have been trying to make an emergency landing.  

At a news conference Sunday afternoon, Malaysia Airlines told families to expect the worst while stressing that search and rescue efforts continue. The airline is making arrangements to take family members to Malaysia by Monday morning at the earliest.
 
Malaysia Airlines says a disaster recovery specialist from the United States will be assisting the carrier. It is also setting up command centers in Malaysia's Kota Bharu and Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh city.
 
The revelation that two of the passengers on board were using stolen passports, and questions about the identity of two others has even raised concerns that the flight's disappearance was the result of a terrorist act.
 
Authorities in Italy and Austria have confirmed that two passengers who were thought to have been on the flight were not - but both had their passports stolen in the past two years.
 
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who is also the country's defense minister says he has spoken with international intelligence agencies about the four names.
 
"I am in touch with the international intelligence agencies and at the same time our own intelligence has been activated and of course the counter terrorism units CTIs and CTUs from all the relevant countries will be, have been informed, That's what I've been doing since yesterday," he said.
 
Hussein says terrorism is not the sole focus of the investigation at this point and adds that authorities are not ruling out any possibilities. Authorities say they are reviewing security footage in the airport of the two individuals who boarded the plane using stolen passports.
 
Analysts say that while Asian airport security is not as tight as it is in Europe or the United States, the possibility that as many as four passengers got on board using stolen documents will raise some difficult questions.
 
No group or organization has come forward to claim responsibility for the plane's disappearance.  Authorities in China will be watching the investigation closely.  
 
The plane was headed to Beijing at a time of already heightened security in the capital.  Last week, China's leaders began key annual political meetings in Beijing.
 
Airline safety experts say it is unusual for a plane to crash after reaching cruising altitude.  Daniel Tsang is the founder and chief analyst at Aspire Aviation.
 
"Most incidents or accidents take place during take off or landing, when it is the most dangerous part of the entire duration of the flight," said Tsang. "Because during take off and landing there are so many factors, and you can have runway overruns, etc."  
 
Tsang says that searches at sea for lost planes are tremendously difficult. Once the wreckage is found, however, the way the debris is dispersed will give clues as to what might have happened during the flight.  
 
"If the airplane hits the ocean in one piece, it remains intact, most likely the debris area would be very small and concentrated in a small diameter or circle," said Tsang. " But if you are talking about an inflight break up as some are speculating on the MH370 you'd be looking for miles and miles of diameter of debris field."
 
The Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing was a Boeing 777-200, a plane air safety experts say has an almost spotless record. There were also no signs of bad weather during the flight. Authorities in Malaysia say they lost contact with the plane about one hour after its departure from Kuala Lumpur.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs