News Asia-Pacific

Tuesday 16 September 2014

US switches focus of missing plane search to Indian Ocean

Malcolm Moore and Nick Allen

Published 14/03/2014 | 02:30

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Military officer Pham Tuan Minh looks through a window of a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, off Con Dao island March 13, 2014. A search by two Vietnamese aircraft responding to information provided by a Chinese satellite has failed to locate objects suspected of being wreckage from the missing Malaysian airliner, a Reuters journalist on board a search plane said on Thursday. Aircraft repeatedly circled the area over the South China Sea but were unable to detect any objects, said the journalist, who flew aboard a Antonov 26 cargo plane for three hours. REUTERS/Kham (VIETNAM - Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT MILITARY)
Military officer Pham Tuan Minh looks through a window of a Vietnam Air Force AN-26 aircraft during a mission to find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370

The missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 could have crashed in the Indian Ocean, far away from previous possible locations, the United States said last night.

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A US official was quoted as saying that Washington had "an indication the plane went down in the Indian Ocean" and that a warship was being moved there to search for wreckage.

"It's my understanding that based on some new information, that's not necessarily conclusive, an additional search area may be opened in the Indian Ocean," said Jay Carney, the White House spokesman.

Anger is growing at the Malaysian government's handling of the crisis, with furious relatives of passengers, cooped up in a hotel in Beijing, threatening to sue the airline and demanding to see Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. More than two-thirds of the 239 on board were from China.

A young woman said: "I really want to see President Xi. I don't know what could be more important than the lives of these 200 people."

Amid continuing confusion over the fate of the flight, which vanished in the early hours of Saturday, a Pentagon official in the US told ABC News that the destroyer USS Kidd would be moved to the Indian Ocean, which would take 24 hours.

Previous searches have centred on the South China Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the Malacca Strait. The hunt has also been widened to the Andaman Sea – a part of the Indian Ocean.

The report that the plane went down in the Indian Ocean appeared to tally with previous indications printed in ‘The Wall Street Journal’ that it could have flown on for four or five hours after vanishing from radar.

But that was denied by the Malaysian government.

According to the US investigators, data automatically transmitted by the plane's twin Rolls-Royce Trent engines was received on the ground as part of a routine monitoring programme, run by Rolls-Royce, hours after it lost air traffic control contact.

If true, that would widen the search by an area stretching from India to Australia or more than 2,000 nautical miles.

TRANSMISSION

But Hishammuddin Hussein, the Malaysian transport minister, said: "Those reports are inaccurate. The last transmission from the aircraft was at 1.07am which indicated that everything was normal."

Shortly afterwards, at 1.30am, the Beijing-bound flight out of Kuala Lumpur disappeared as it passed between Malaysian and Vietnamese air traffic control.

Another apparent clue turned out to be a false lead. Chinese satellite photographs purportedly showing large pieces of debris 200 miles from where the plane last made contact were released but dismissed yesterday.

The Chinese ambassador to Malaysia called the pictures "a mistake". (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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