Saturday, 8 March 2014

Desperate search for plane missing for 12 hours: Boeing 777 with 239 passengers on board vanishes over Vietnam

A major search and rescue operation is today underway after a Malaysian Airlines plane carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew disappeared off the coast of Vietnam, after losing contact with air traffic controllers.

The Boeing 777 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12.21am (4.21pm GMT) bound for Beijing, where it was expected to land at 6.30am (10.30pm GMT).

But after reaching 35,000ft and 120 nautical miles off the coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu the plane vanished, prompting fears the aircraft 'could have crashed'.

Aviation expert Chris Yates said the plane would not be carrying enough fuel to still be in the air and would 'definitely have crashed'.

He told Sky News: 'Frankly the plane would not have been carrying enough fuel to stay aloft much longer than an hour after it was due to arrive in Beijing.

'We simply don't know the circumstances behind what caused that crash at the moment.

'There will be two areas for the investigation: the maintenance of the aircraft and also possible terrorism.'

Less than one hour after Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, the plane disappeared from radar.

Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said there was no indication that the pilots sent a distress signal. The fact that there was apparently no call for help suggests that whatever happened to the flight occurred quickly.

The Malaysian Transport Minister said 14 hours into the search and rescue missions, that no trace of a crash site in the sea has been found, after reports the plane had crashed off the coast of southern Vietnam.

'We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane. We are doing everything we can to ensure every possible angle has been addressed,' Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein told reporters near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

'We are looking for accurate information from the Malaysian military. They are waiting for information from the Vietnamese side,' he said.

Ships in the area have been involved, scouring the vast site for signs of a wreckage.

Malaysian Airlines has confirmed the majority of those on board are from Malaysia and China, with four Americans, two Canadians and seven Australians and passengers from France.

Vietnamese state media, quoting a senior naval official, had reported that the Boeing 777-200ER flight had crashed off south Vietnam, but those reports have been denied, with the plane listed as 'missing'.

The Vietnamese Navy confirmed it detected the aircraft's emergency locator signal 153 miles south of Phu Quoc island in the South China sea.

Admiral Ngo Van Phat told the Vietnamese newspaper Tuoi Tre that radar showed the aircraft had crashed into the sea off the southern tip of Vietnam, close to the border with Cambodia.

The paper later reported the Admiral qualifying his statement, saying the radar had revealed the presumed crash site.

Malaysian naval vessels saw no immediate sign of wreckage when they reached the maritime area off the country's northeast coast this morning, a senior rescue official said.

Malaysia has sent three maritime enforcement ships and a navy vessel to the area, backed by three helicopters, a Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency official said.

'Our aircraft asset spotted an orange speck in the sea where the last signal came from. We sent a vessel to search the area and it was confirmed that it was nothing,' he said.

The signal picked up by the Navy is believed to be the Emergency Locator Transmittor, which can be activated manually by the flight crew or automatically upon impact.

Crying relatives of Chinese passengers on board the plane wept at Beijing airport earlier today as it became clear the jet had probably crashed.

An unconfirmed report on a flight tracking website said the aircraft had plunged 650ft and changed course shortly before all contact was lost.

The route would have taken flight MH370, a B777-200 aircraft, across the Malaysian mainland in a north-easterly direction and then across the Gulf of Thailand.

Malaysia and Vietnam were conducting a joint search and rescue, he said but gave no details. China has also sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in any rescue, state television said on one of its microblogs.

“We are extremely worried,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing before the Vietnamese report that the plane had crashed. “The news is very disturbing. We hope everyone on the plane is safe.”

The flight left Kuala Lumpur at 12.21 a.m. local time Saturday. CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said at a news conference that Flight MH370 lost contact with Malaysian air traffic control at 2:40 a.m. The plane, which carried passengers mostly from China but also from other Asian countries, Canada and Europe, had been expected to land in Beijing at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.

Malaysia Airlines said people from 14 nationalities were among the 227 passengers, including at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, six Australians and three Americans. It also said a Chinese infant and an American infant were on board.

If it is confirmed that the plane has crashed, the loss would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year and by far the worst since the jet entered service in 1995.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER crash-landed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers and injuring more than 180.

Saturday 08 February 2014


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