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Malaysia defends search for missing jet

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Malaysian authorities defended their handling of the hunt for the missing Boeing 777 on Wednesday but acknowledged they still are unsure which direction the plane was headed when it disappeared, highlighting the massive task facing an international search now in its fifth day.

The mystery over the plane's whereabouts has been confounded by confusing and occasionally conflicting statements by Malaysian officials, adding to the anguish of relatives of the 239 people on board the flight - two thirds of them Chinese.

"There's too much information and confusion right now. It is very hard for us to decide whether a given piece of information is accurate," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. "We will not give it up as long as there's still a shred of hope."

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described the multinational search for the missing plane as an unprecedented and complicated effort and defended his country's efforts. Some 43 ships and 39 aircraft from at least eight nations were scouring an area of 92,600 square kilometers (35,800 square miles).

"It's not something that is easy. We are looking at so many vessels and aircraft, so many countries to coordinate, and a vast area for us to search," he said. "But we will never give up. This we owe to the families."

Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing early Saturday morning and fell off civilian radar screens at 1:30 a.m. about 35,000 feet above the Gulf of Thailand between Malaysia and southern Vietnam. It sent no distress signals or any indication it was experiencing any problems.

Malaysian authorities have since said that air defense radar picked up traces of what might have been the plane turning back and flying until it reached the Strait of Malacca, a busy shipping lane west of the narrow nation some 400 kilometers (250 miles) from the plane's last known coordinates.

Military and government officials on Wednesday said American experts and the manufacturer of the radar systems were examining that data to confirm it showed the Boeing 777. Until then, they said the search would continue on both sides of the country, with an equal focus.

Dozens of ships and planes searching waters have failed to turn up anything, prompting officials to expand the hunt. Malaysia asked India to join the search for the missing jet in waters near the Andaman Sea - far to the northwest of its last reported position.

"As of today, we have not found anything, but we are extending (the search) further," Hishammuddin said.

Air force chief Gen. Rodzali Daud said air defense radar showed an unidentified object at 2:15 a.m. about 200 miles (320 kilometers) northwest of Penang.

"I am not saying it's flight MH370. We are still corroborating this. It was an unidentifiable plot," he said.

It's unlikely the plane would have flown across Malaysia without being detected by civilian radar unless its electrical systems, including transponders allowing it to be identified by radar, were either knocked out or turned off.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage and terrorism. Both the Boeing 777 and Malaysia Airlines have excellent safety records. Until wreckage or debris is found and examined, it will be very hard to say what happened.

Malaysian authorities contacted their Indian counterparts seeking help in searching areas near the Andaman Sea, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.

Hishammuddin praised India for joining the efforts and vowed to keep up the search until the plane was found.

Earlier, Gen. Rodzali released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had confirmed that aircraft flew west over and made it to the Malacca Strait. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official who confirmed the remarks.

Indonesian air force Col. Umar Fathur said the country had received official information from Malaysian authorities that the plane was above the South China Sea, about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from Kota Bharu, Malaysia, when it turned back toward the strait and then disappeared. That would place its last confirmed position closer to Malaysia than has previously been publicly disclosed.

Confusion over whether the plane had been spotted flying west has prompted speculation that different arms of the government have different opinions about where the plane is most likely to be, or even that authorities are holding back information.

Asked about this, Hishammuddin said his government had been transparent from the start.

"There is only confusion if you want to see confusion," he said.

Choi Tat Sang, a 74-year-old Malaysian man, said his family is still holding out hope that the plane and all on board are safe. His daughter-in-law, Goh Sock Lay, 45, is the chief stewardess on the flight. Her 14-year-old daughter, an only child, has been crying every day since the plane's disappearance.

"We are heartbroken. We are continuing to pray for her safety and for everyone on the flight," he said.

The mother of passenger Zou Jingsheng, who would only give her name as Zou, wept and spoke haltingly about her missing son at a hotel near the Beijing airport. She expressed frustration with the airline and the Malaysian government over their handling of the case.

"I want to talk more, but all this is very stressful, and after all it is my son's life that I am concerned about. I just want to know where he is, and wish he is safe and alive," she said.

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hopfornow March 13 2014 at 1:55 AM

I wish I had something helpful to say

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Helen Duncil March 12 2014 at 12:46 PM

I AM sadden about this hope and pray that these people are safe. Prayers for the families

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1 reply
emailpatconway Helen Duncil March 12 2014 at 12:49 PM

i think this plane has been hijacked to another country . soon we will hear about hostage release.

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MCM March 12 2014 at 11:59 AM

I remeber when a US Air Force jet crashed in the Holy Cross Wilderness in April, 1997. It took 3 weeks for them to find the wreckage. That was within American borders, not in the ocean and they knew roughly where he crashed. It still took a long time to find him. I assume that technology has improved since then but still, I'm not surprised, I guess, that they can't find it. I have been amazed and annoyed by the seemingly jovial attitude of the Malaysian and Indonesian personnel who are speaking about this incident.

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1 reply
Kate MCM March 12 2014 at 12:18 PM

They are just trying to keep people calm, and hopes high.

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Kate March 12 2014 at 12:12 PM

I didn't realize that the search area was so vast. I knew it was big, but not THAT big. No wonder it is taking so long, heartbreaking through it is for the relatives and friends. I'm sure everyone is doing everything they can.

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1 reply
str00ntz Kate March 12 2014 at 12:37 PM

If the plane was indeed hijacked (still a possibility) and flown below radar, the damned plane could have made it half way to Antarctica..

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softblueskies March 12 2014 at 12:25 PM

Calling all legit psychics....if YOU have the gift...what happened to this plane?

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1 reply
str00ntz softblueskies March 12 2014 at 12:36 PM

hehe.. psychics... Where is John Edwards now that we need him?

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n8132b March 12 2014 at 12:25 PM

Searching the vast areas are harder than people can imagine. To find even a life jacket or debri
is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Been their and done it. Even with all the technology today.

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RockNHula March 12 2014 at 12:40 PM

This is a very strange case. There are a number of things that don't add up. Pilot actions or that of hijackers could not turn off all the transmission points on the aircraft. Radar cannot lose the plane--in the sense that it vanishes from a 35K altitude, and that Boeing 777-200 is in constant contact with the manufacturer, for maintenance purposes. Even if the plane's w-fi went down, all of the those cell phones would not have lost contact all at once. We know the plane did not blow up in mid-air, didn't break up, wasn't hit by a missile... that leaves some bizarre decompression accident, or UFOs, as possiblities.

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2 replies
Joe RockNHula March 12 2014 at 1:06 PM

You just had to know that sooner or later UFOs would come into play. Congrats!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
str00ntz RockNHula March 12 2014 at 1:06 PM

sigh... The Malaysian 777 did not have this OPTIONAL Boeing maintenance telemetry installed. As far as the cell phones, they would have had to been within a few miles of a working tower..

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ssjm3 March 12 2014 at 12:55 PM

i am a world war 2 historian and have been following the story about the aircraft that is missing i understand that the people are having a real hard time searching for the jet i broke out a few ww2 maps and here is what i have found so far if they take a hard look at the last known postion of the jet and think if the flight was taken over i do know if a plane goes down to 200 ft they are off the radar there are a lot of old ww2 bomber bases out there such as tinian and otheres that were build to handle such large aircraft as B-29's and B-17's maybe if they take a look at these area's they might come up with something i ploted there last course and made a circumfirance at 200 ft and at 3/4 power and fuel tonage they could be on one of those old ww2 bases it cant hurt to take a look

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sajithmms March 12 2014 at 1:01 PM

.if the pilots have conspired, it can prove from mobile conversations of pilot and co pilot to check for any clues, check on the CCTV footage at hotel where the pilot have stayed, maybe clues can be found

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ssjm3 March 12 2014 at 1:11 PM

ok i have just taken anoth look at my ww2 maps and there are over 15 old bomber bases out in the pacific area of operation from the navy and marine corp here are just a few of them ....tinian,vela lavela , espritos marcos,rebaul ,these bases handles heavy's such as B-29's B-17's and B-25 's these old bases are long enough to take a heavy aka a boeing 777-200 there are alot of things called windshear and that could have happened all it takes is for some real bad windshear to knock it down to 200ft and then recover and the aircraft could be wounded and made it to one of those bases like i said it cant hurt to try and look at those bases......thanks....steve

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