No sign of Malaysia Airline wreckage; questions over stolen passports

Sunday, March 09, 02:43 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – 8th Media Statement
Statement by MAS GCEO, Ahmad Jauhari Yahya

Together with all those affected by the MH370 incident, we understand the need to provide regular updates on the progress of the search and rescue operations. As the hours turn into days, we at Malaysia Airlines are similarly anxious and we appreciate the patience, support and prayers from everyone.

We however acknowledge that the most affected group in this incident is the families of those on-board. As such, our primary focus at this point in time is to care for the families. This means providing them with timely information, travel facilities, accommodation, meals and emotional support. Initial financial assistance has been given out to all families. Caregivers are already assigned to each family and they are trained staff and volunteers from Malaysia and Australia.

Family members of the MH370 passengers from Beijing who wish to travel will be flown in stages to Kuala Lumpur on the available flights. We are also communicating with the families from other nations to similarly arrange for their travel to Kuala Lumpur.

In the event flight MH370 is located, a Response Control Centre (RCC) in the area will be activated to support the needs of families.

The airline continues to work with the authorities and we appreciate the help we are receiving from all parties during this critical and difficult time.

Saturday, March 08, 07:20 PM MYT +0800 Malaysia Airlines MH370 Flight Incident – 5th Media Statement Excerpt

Sepang, 8 March 2014: The families of all passengers on board MH370 are being informed. The flight was carrying a total number of 239 passengers and crew – comprising 227 passengers (including 2 infants) and 12 crew members.

For the passenger manifest of MH370, click here.

The passengers are of 14 different nationalities. All crew on-board are Malaysians.

The below table shows the latest number of passengers and their nationalities:

Nationality Total
China/Taiwan 154 including infant
Malaysia 38
India 5
Indonesia 7
Australia 6
France 4
USA 3 including infant
New Zealand 2
Ukraine 2
Canada 2
Russian 1
Italy 1
Netherlands 1
Austrian 1

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) — There were few answers Sunday about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a day after contact was lost with the commercial jetliner en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

An aerial search resumed at first light, with aircraft searching an area of the South China Sea for any sign of where the flight may have gone down, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, the director general of civil aviation in Malaysia, told reporters

“We have not been able to locate anything, see anything,” Rahman said. “There’s nothing new to report.”

The closest things to clues in the search for the missing jetliner are oil slicks in the Gulf of Thailand, about 90 miles south of Vietnam’s Tho Chu Island — the same area where the flight disappeared from radar early Saturday morning. A Vietnamese reconnaissance plane, part of a massive, multinational search effort, spotted the oil slicks that stretch between six and nine miles, the Vietnam government’s official news agency reported.

Malaysian authorities have not yet confirmed the Vietnamese report, Rahman said.

The reported oil discovery has only added to a growing list of questions about the fate of the plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew members: What happened to the plane, why was no distress signal issued, and who exactly was aboard?

Passenger manifest questioned

Bits and pieces of information have begun to form, but it remains unclear how they fit into the bigger picture, if at all.

For instance, after the airline released a manifest, Austria denied that one of its citizens was aboard the flight. The Austrian citizen was safe and sound, and his passport had been stolen two years ago, Austrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Weiss said.

Similarly, Italy’s foreign ministry confirmed that no Italians were on Flight 370, even though an Italian was listed on the manifest.

On Saturday, Italian police visited the home of the parents of Luigi Maraldi, the man whose name appeared on the manifest, to inform them about the missing flight, said a police official in Cesena, in northern Italy.

Maraldi’s father, Walter, told police he had just spoken to his son, who was fine and not on the missing flight, said the official, who is not authorized to speak to the media. Maraldi was vacationing in Thailand, his father said.

The police official said Maraldi had reported his passport stolen in Malaysia last August and had obtained a new one. But U.S. law enforcement sources told CNN that both the Austrian and Italian passports were stolen in Thailand.

A U.S. intelligence official said authorities are aware of reporting about lost or stolen passports used by passengers on the missing flight.

“No nexus to terrorism yet,” the official said, “although that’s by no means definitive. We’re still tracking.”

The U.S. government has been briefed on the stolen passports and reviewed the names of the passengers in question but found nothing at this point to indicate foul play, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Of the two passports in question, the Italian one had been reported stolen and was in Interpol’s database, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst Tom Fuentes said, citing sources at Interpol.

Additionally, no inquiry was made by Malaysia Airlines to determine if any passengers on the flight were traveling on stolen passports, he said. Many airlines do not check the database, he said.

Not ruling anything out

Malaysian authorities reiterated during a news conference that they are not ruling anything out regarding the missing aircraft.

The Boeing 777-200ER departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. Saturday in good weather, and it was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., a 2,300-mile (3,700 kilometer) trip.

Air traffic controllers in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur, lost contact with the plane about 2:40 a.m., about two hours after it took off. The pilots did not indicate to the tower there may be a problem, and no distress signal was issued, the airline said.

China, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia were conducting search and rescue operations south of Tho Chu island in the South China Sea, according to the airline and reports from Xinhua, China’s official news agency. Ships, helicopters and airplanes are being utilized.

The USS Pinckney, a destroyer conducting training in the South China Sea, is being routed to the southern Vietnamese coast to aid in the search, the U.S. Navy said. The United States is also sending a P-3C Orion surveillance plane from Japan to provide long-range search, radar and communications capabilities, the Navy said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Coast Guard has ordered on-duty vessels to aid in the search, Xinhua reported, citing government officials. China also sent a diving and salvage team to the area where the airplane is suspected to have gone down, the news agency reported.

Because of the Americans aboard the flight, the FBI is sending a team of agents to Malaysia to support the investigation into the disappearance, a U.S. official familiar with the issue told CNN on condition of anonymity.

The FBI is not ruling out terrorism or any other issue as a possible cause in the jetliner’s disappearance, the official said.

Officials appeared resigned to accepting the worst outcome.

“I’d just like to say our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a news conference.

Grief, especially in China

Family and friends of many of the 154 Chinese nationals on board gathered at a hotel complex in the Lido district of Beijing. A large group of reporters gathered outside.

“My son was only 40 years old,” one woman wailed as she was led inside. “My son, my son — what am I going to do?”

The Ministry of Transportation in Malaysia said 80% of family members of those on board had been contacted.

The Boeing 777-200 departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport at 12:41 a.m. and was expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m., a 2,300-mile (3,700 kilometer) trip. It was carrying 227 passengers, two of them infants, and 12 crew members, the airline said. Air traffic control in Subang, in Malaysia, had last contact with the plane.

At the time of its disappearance, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was carrying about 7.5 hours of fuel, Sharuji said.

The passengers are of 13 nationalities, the airline said. Nationalities and the number for each of passengers on the flight were:

– China (includes Taiwan), 154
— Malaysia, 38
— India, 5
— Indonesia, 7
— Australia, 6
— United States, 3
— France, 4
— New Zealand, 2
— Ukraine, 2
— Canada, 2
— Russia, 1
— Italy, 1
— Netherlands, 1
— Austria, 1

One infant from the United States and another from China were included in the tally.

If this aircraft has crashed with a total loss, it would the deadliest aviation incident since November 2001 when an American Airlines Airbus A300 crashed in Belle Harbor, Queens, shortly after takeoff from JFK Airport. Killed were 265 people, including five people on the ground.

Search underway

Malaysia Airlines said it was working with the authorities who have activated their search and rescue team to locate the aircraft. The airline said the public can call +603 7884 1234 for further information.

Hishammuddin described Malaysia’s search efforts, saying, “The C-130’s are out there. The chief of the navy says we are deploying all our ships in the vicinity to the area, and our coast guard has been deployed and our 7-25 helicopters have been deployed. But they have not discovered any wreckage as yet.”

CCTV, China’s state-run broadcaster, earlier reported that China had deployed two rescue ships to the South China Sea. But China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said that information was incorrect and that the South China Sea Rescue Bureau’s three search and rescue vessels are still on standby.

The airline’s website said the flight was piloted by Cap. Zaharie Ahmad Shah, 53, a Malaysian. He has 18,365 total flying hours and joined Malaysia Airlines in 1981, the website said. The first officer is Fariq Ab.Hamid, 27, a Malaysian with a total of 2,763 flying hours. He joined Malaysia Airlines in 2007.

China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said the flight lost contact and its radar signal as it was flying over the Ho Chi Minh air traffic control area in Vietnam.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang ordered authorities to start emergency measures to strengthen communications with Malaysian authorities, and called for boosting search and rescue efforts as well as verifying details of the Chinese passengers aboard, China’s government website reported.

China’s embassy in Malaysia has formed an emergency team headed by the Chinese ambassador to deal with the incident, it said.

“We’re closely monitoring reports on Malaysia flight MH370,” Boeing said in a tweet. “Our thoughts are with everyone on board.”

Pessimistic assessment

“It doesn’t sound very good,” retired American Airlines Capt. Jim Tilmon told CNN’s “AC360.” He noted that the route is mostly overland, which means that there would be plenty of antennae, radar and radios to contact the plane.

“I’ve been trying to come up with every scenario that I could just to explain this away, but I haven’t been very successful.”

He said the plane is “about as sophisticated as any commercial airplane could possibly be,” with an excellent safety record.

“The lack of communications suggests to me that something most unfortunate has happened,” said Mary Schiavo, former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation, in an interview with CNN International. “But that, of course, does not mean that there are not many persons that need to be rescued and secured. There’s still a very urgent need to find that plane and to render aid.”

There is one recent blemish for the Boeing jet: An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 carrying 291 passengers struck a seawall at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013, killing three people and wounding dozens more.

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia Airlines operates in Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and on the route between Europe and Australasia.

It has 15 of the Boeing 777-200 planes in its fleet, CNN’s Richard Quest reported.

Part of the company is in the private sector, but the government owns most of it.

Malayan Airways Limited began flying in 1937 as an air service between Penang and Singapore. A decade later, it began flying commercially as the national airline.

In 1963, when Malaysia was formed, the airline was renamed Malaysian Airlines Limited.

Within 20 years, it had grown from a single aircraft operator into a company with 2,400 employees and a fleet operator.

CNN’s Jim Clancy reported from Kuala Lumpur, and Chelsea J. Carter and Ralph Ellis reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Andrew Stevens in Beijing, Yuli Yang in Hong Kong, Jim Sciutto in Washington, and Elwyn Lopez, AnneClaire Stapleton, Mariano Castillo and Tom Watkins in Atlanta contributed to this report.

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