Malaysia Airlines Plane ‘Crashes Near Vietnam’

Malaysia Airlines Plane ‘Crashes Near Vietnam’

A passenger plane disappears off radar two hours into its flight

A Boeing 777-200 from Kuala Lumpur to  Beijing

Nearly 240 people are feared dead after two large oil slicks were spotted where a passenger plane reportedly crashed into the sea off Vietnam.

The two parallel slicks – both between 10 miles (16km) and 12 miles (19km) long and 500 metres apart – were seen by two Vietnamese air force jets off the south coast of Vietnam.

A Vietnamese government statement said they were consistent with the kind of spills caused by fuel from a crashed airliner.

Rescue boats are being sent to the area from the nearby island of Phu Quoc to look for survivors.

Earlier, the country’s state media quoted a navy official as saying Flight MH370 crashed near Tho Chu Islands at around 2.40am local time.

The US Navy is helping teams from Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore search the vast waters in the Gulf of Thailand, between Malaysia and Vietnam.

A photo of the missing plane - seen taking off in Paris in 2011

A photo of the missing plane – seen taking off in Paris in 2011

 

Malaysia’s Transport Minister Seri Hishammuddin said he was “looking at all possibilities” including a potential terror attack.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement: “The families of all passengers on board MH370 are being informed.

“At this stage, our search and rescue teams from Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam have failed to find evidence of any wreckage.”

US officials told NBC News they have not ruled out terrorism after it was discovered two passengers were travelling on stolen passports

The plane disappeared from radar at 1.30am (5.30pm UK time) about 85 miles (135km) north of the Malaysian city of Kuala Terengganu.

Journalist Leo Lewis, at Beijing airport, told Sky News families were waiting anxiously for news of their relatives.

map of Vietnam

The plane is said to have crashed near Tho Chu island, in southern Vietnam

 

He said there were “scenes of considerable distress” and “increasing irritation” because of a lack of information about their fate.

A woman whose mother was on the plane waited for hours without any news and expressed her anger at the way the airline is handling the incident.

Describing the scene inside the room where some 500 relatives are waiting for news, she said: “They used a bus to bring us here, in this hotel. They only give us bread, biscuits and water, that’s all.

“There is nobody from the airline, not even one person. Every time I ask ‘where is the airline staff; what’s the latest?’ They say, ‘we are only volunteers, we’re hotel staff, we’re not from the airline’.”

Malcolm Moore, the Daily Telegraph’s Beijing Correspondent, said the relatives have been taken by bus to a hotel in the centre of Beijing.

He told Sky News: “There has been no official confirmation (about what has happened), but it’s looking increasingly grim.”

The plane left Kuala Lumpur at 12.41am local time and was due to arrive in Beijing at 6.30am local time.

Malaysia Airlines said the flight was carrying 227 passengers, including two infants, and 12 crew members.

They were from 14 countries – 152 plus one baby from China, 38 from Malaysia, 12 from Indonesia, seven from Australia, three from the US, three from France, two from New Zealand, two from Ukraine, two from Canada, one from Russia, one from Taiwan, and one from the Netherlands.

Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang has urged Malaysia to “quickly and vigorously push search and rescue work” for the missing plane, state news agency Xinhua said.

Beijing has sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in the search and rescue work.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “This news has made us all very worried. We hope every one of the passengers is safe.”

The aircraft was piloted by Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah, a 53-year-old Malaysian with a total of 18,365 flying hours. He joined the company in 1981.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members,” Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement.

The airline said it would provide “regular updates” on the situation and has set up the phone line +603 7884 1234 for concerned members of the public.

Aviation expert David Learmount told Sky News the Boeing 777-200’s safety record is “absolutely superb”.

He said the plane would have been travelling at cruising height (around 35,000ft) and even if both engines had failed, it would have given the pilots plenty of time to make a distress call.

The “simple solution” would be to presume there was a bomb on board, “but there’s no suggestion of that,” he said.

Malaysia Airlines has 15 Boeing 777-200 jets in its fleet of about 100 planes.

There has been one fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 since the jet entered service in 1995.

Last summer, an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crash landed in San Francisco, killing three passengers.

Boeing said it was aware of reports that the Malaysia Airlines plane has gone missing and was monitoring the situation, but had no further comment.

On Saturday at 1 AM, there was a press conference stating that the area has been widened, where the rescue services will search for the plane later that day, it was reported that two passengers boarded the plane on illegal passports

Authorities admit they are “puzzled” by the “unprecedented” disappearance of flight MH370 mid-way between Kuala Lumpur and Beijing.

Authorities cannot rule out the possibility that the plane was hijacked or destroyed in a terror attack. At this stage

Earlier reports of debris spotted in the South China Sea, including an aircraft door, have not been confirmed, while a possible sighting of a section of the plane’s tail has been ruled out.

Sky’s Jonathan Samuels, in Beijing, said authorities have warned against giving “false hope” to relatives by reporting every sighting of debris.

“They say it’s very distressing and very upsetting for families to hear there may be something like a life raft out in the ocean, only to have their hopes dashed just a short time later,” he said.

The two men travelling on stolen passports bought their tickets together and were due to fly to Europe after landing in Beijing.

Initial investigations suggest the plane disintegrated at about 35,000ft, according to the Reuters news agency.

Had the plane plunged into the sea and broken up on impact, search teams would have expected to find a concentrated pattern of debris, a source involved in the probe said.

The search, which involves teams from 10 countries, was widened after radar suggested the aircraft may have turned back before it vanished.

Rescuers have been concentrating their efforts on a 10,500 sq mile area of ocean that includes parts of the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, relatives of those on the flight are enduring an agonising wait for information and anger is growing in China about the lack of progress with the investigation.

Nearly two-thirds of the passengers were Chinese and if the loss of the plane is confirmed, it would be the country’s second-worst air disaster.

In a scathing editorial, the Global Times newspaper, which has links to the Chinese Communist Party, said: “The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities. The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough.

“There are loopholes in the work of Malaysia Airlines and security authorities.”
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