Malaysian response to missing plane under scrutiny

Malaysia Airlines expanded search areas map
Malaysia Airlines expanded search areas map

Malaysian officials on Wednesday defended their handling of the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. Here are some discrepancies in statements they have made since the plane disappeared early Saturday with 239 people on board:

— TIME OF DISAPPEARANCE

Malaysia Airlines initially said the Boeing 777 lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 a.m. after about two hours in the air. It later said contact was lost at 1:30 a.m., as data on flight tracking websites had been showing. The incorrect time report led to speculation the flight had crashed somewhere between Vietnam and China.

— DID THE FLIGHT TURN BACK?

The government said on the day of the plane’s disappearance that there were indications it attempted to turn back, but didn’t say what they were. After days of confusion and suggestions authorities were looking in the wrong place, military officials explained Wednesday they had spotted images of what might be the plane on air defense radar recordings indicating it might have turned around, but they were inconclusive.

— MISSING PASSENGERS

Officials initially said four or five passengers had checked in for the flight but did not board, and their luggage had to be taken off the plane before it departed for Beijing. This fueled speculation that terrorism might have caused the crash. On Wednesday, officials said some people with reservations never checked in and were simply replaced by standby passengers, and no baggage was removed.

— STOLEN PASSPORTS

Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi initially described two men who boarded the plane with stolen passports as having Asian features, which was contradicted a day later by the civil aviation chief, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, who created confusion with remarks that could have been taken to indicate they were black. The men were later identified by Interpol as Iranian. Malaysian police released photos of the men with identical legs, which turned out to be digitally manipulated. Police said this was an oversight and was not done to mislead.

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