News / Asia

Search Widens for Missing Malaysia Jet

An electronic display shows live information of flight positions according to predicted time and flight duration calculations at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 16, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia.
An electronic display shows live information of flight positions according to predicted time and flight duration calculations at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, March 16, 2014 in Sepang, Malaysia.
VOA News
Malaysia says the search for a missing passenger jet is under way along both the northern and southern corridors where it is believed to have been deliberately diverted.

Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says 26 countries are involved in the search, including in water and on land in 11 countries. The search spans tens of millions of square kilometers.

"Today I can confirm that the search-and-rescue operations in the northern and southern corridors have already begun," he said. "Countries including Malaysia, Australia, China, Indonesia, and Kazakhstan have already initiated search-and-rescue operations. The [Malaysian] Royal Air Force  and the Royal National Navy have deployed assets to the southern corridor."

About two-thirds of the 239 people aboard the missing Boeing 777 were Chinese nationals, and with the expansion of the search effort, Beijing's foreign ministry leveled a new attack on Malaysia's openness in handling the investigation.

"Of course the current search and rescue efforts have become even harder now, and the area is much bigger," he said. "It calls for better methods. So we hope the Malaysian side can provide more thorough, accurate information to countries participating in the search and rescue, be able to further increase the search area and strengthen search efforts.''

One distraught father of a passenger on the flight sharply rebuked Malaysia's effort.

"Malaysia talked nonsense and lied, which delayed the search and rescue for eight days," he said. "We want an explanation for this. This is totally different to a plane crashing or having some problem. They've cheated us, and made the disaster worse. It should have been found ages ago. But now if it can't be found or something happened, it's the government's problem.''

Investigators believe the aircraft flew either north toward Central Asia or south, deeper into the vast Indian Ocean in the hours after it mysteriously vanished on March 8.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday agreed to take charge of the southern section of the search, at the request of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

"He asked that Australia take responsibility for the search in the southern vector, which the Malaysian authorities now think was one possible flight path for this ill-fated aircraft.  I agreed that we would do so," he said. "I offered the Malaysian prime minister additional maritime surveillance resources which he gratefully accepted."

But he added that his country has not seen any signs that the flight carrying 239 people had come close to its airspace.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin denied holding back crucial information. He said he would not withhold any details that could help, but that any information released "must be verified by international investigation teams."

Meanwhile, Malaysian investigators are more closely examining the final moments before the plane disappeared from civilian radar.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya says the last known message from the cockpit - a calm, "All right, goodnight" - is believed to have come from the plane's co-pilot.

But investigators now say it is not clear whether the radio transmission came before or after a signaling system was partially disabled or switched off, allowing the plane to further avoid detection.

The voice in the cockpit did not mention any trouble on board, suggesting he may have been misleading ground control or acting under coercion by someone familiar with aviation technology.

Authorities are also investigating the pilots and engineers who may have had contact with the plane before it left Kuala Lumpur.

The missing passenger plane was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing when it disappeared.

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