India joins search for Malaysia Airlines jet

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Malaysian-plane-search-operMalaysia asks India’s assistance in searching for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner

Malaysia has sought India’s assistance to trace its missing aircraft with 239 people on board even as the Government in New Delhi initiated the process of appointing designated people to share information and take the matter forward.

“Malaysia has on Tuesday sought India’s assistance in locating the plane.

“We are appointing designated people to deal with the issue and also take forward the process of sharing information in this regard,” the Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs said.

The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777 plane with 239 people on board, including five Indians, vanished over the South China Sea on Friday one hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur.

The request by Malaysia for India’s assistance to trace the aircraft came as search for it has been expanded to the Andaman Sea.

India has a tri-services military command at Andaman and Nicobar islands and Navy and air force carry out regular patrols in the area.

Search and rescue operations for the aircraft which had been mobilised since early Saturday morning have failed to find the jetliner in the South China Sea and authorities have expanded the area of search into the Andaman sea, Malaysian officials said.

Authorities have put the plane’s last known point of contact with air—traffic control off eastern Malaysia — roughly midway between Kota Bharu and the southern tip of Vietnam, flying at 35,000 feet.

The search for the missing plane entered the fifth day, as 34 planes, 40 ships and teams from ten countries are scouring the waters on the plane’s flight path and beyond to find it.

Search for Malaysia Airlines jet widened to Andaman Sea

Vietnam fully resumed its search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner MH 370, after communicating with Malaysian authorities over media reports, subsequently denied, regarding the plane’s last known location.

“Search activities are being deployed as normal, expanding to the east and south of the plane’s last known trajectory,” Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army, Vo Van Tuan, told dpa.

Media reports on Tuesday said that military radar had last detected the plane near Pulau Perak, an island in the Malacca Strait between the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian island of Sumatra. On Wednesday morning, Vietnamese authorities said they were scaling back the search for the plane pending confirmation from Malaysia.

Malaysia has asked for India’s assistance in searching for the missing Boeing 777 jetliner to widen the search to an area near the Andaman Sea, Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Wednesday.

Mr. Akbaruddin said India had appointed a contact person to liaise with Malaysian authorities, but did not give details about what kind of help India would offer.

Indian navy ships frequently patrol the seas around the Strait of Malacca and regularly conduct exercises with countries in the region.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Wednesday appealed for patience in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet MH370 amid confusion over the aircraft’s last known location.

Mr. Najib urged Malaysians to support the government and pray for “some information that can finally lead us to the discovery of the aircraft soon.” “We must face this great challenge from Allah calmly,” he said in a television interview. “The government is doing everything to increase assets, aircraft and ships with sophisticated equipment. I am certain we will eventually find it. The question is when. Under the present situation, we must have patience and pray,” he added.

More than four days after Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 went missing en route to Beijing, authorities acknowledged on Wednesday they didn’t know in which direction the plane and its 239 passengers was heading when it disappeared, vastly complicating efforts to find it.

Amid intensifying confusion and occasionally contradictory statements, the country’s civil aviation authorities and the military both said the plane may have turned back from its original route toward Vietnam, possibly as far as the Strait of Malacca on the eastern side of the country.

Authorities have not ruled out any possible cause, including mechanical failure, pilot error, sabotage or terrorism in the disappearance of the plane. The 777 is a modern aircraft that has an excellent safety record, as does Malaysia Airlines.

Authorities began their search for the missing aircraft at the position it was last reported to be at over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam. But they have also said search operations were ongoing in the Malacca strait. Scores of planes and aircraft have been scouring both locations.

The country’s air force chief, Gen. Rodzali Daud, released a statement denying remarks attributed to him in a local media report saying that military radar had managed to track the aircraft turning back from its original course, crossing the country and making it to the Malacca strait to the west of Malaysia. The Associated Press contacted a high-level military official, who confirmed the remarks.

Gen Rodzali referred to a statement he said he made on March 9 in which he said the air force has “not ruled out the possibility of an air turn back” and said search and rescue efforts had been expanded to the waters around Penang Island, in the northern section of the strait.

It is possible that the radar readings are not definitive or subject to interpretation, especially if a plane is malfunctioning.

The country’s civilian aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said he could neither confirm nor deny military’s remarks. That suggests disagreement or confusion at the highest level over where the plane is most likely to have ended up.

“There is a possibility of an air turn back. We are still investigating and looking at the radar readings,” he said on Wednesday

The strait is a busy shipping lane that separates Malaysian from Indonesia’s Sumatra Island.

Adding to the confusion, Indonesia 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 10 nautical 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.

Col. Fathur said Malaysia authorities have determined four blocks to be searched in the strait, which Indonesia was assisting in.

Vietnamese military authorities said they were searching for the plane on land sea.

Lt. Gen. Vo Van Tuan, deputy chief of staff of Vietnamese People’s Army, said there were 22 aircraft and 31 ships from Vietnam and other countries involved in the hunt in its area of responsibility.

Flight MH370 took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12-41 a.m. on Saturday, bound for Beijing. Authorities initially said its last contact with ground controllers was less than an hour into the flight at a height of 35,000 feet, when the plane was somewhere between the east coast of Malaysia and southern Vietnam.

Malaysian police chief Khalid Abu Bakar, who has been ordered to look at possible criminal aspects in the disappearance of Flight MH370, said hijacking, sabotage and issues related to the pilots’ psychological health were being considered.