Search for missing Malaysia Airlines jet continues

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Malaysia AirlinesKAULA LUMPUR, MAR 08- Planes and ships from south-east Asian states have joined forces to search the South China Sea for a Malaysia Airlines jet, missing with 239 people on board.

Flight MH370 vanished at 18:40 GMT Friday (02:40 local time Saturday) after leaving Kuala Lumpur for Beijing, where it was expected at 22:30 GMT.

No wreckage has been  reported by the airline, but Vietnamese planes reported seeing oil slicks in the sea.

The Vietnamese government said two slicks, about 15km (9 miles) long, were consistent with those that could be left by an airliner and had been detected off the coast of southern Vietnam.

However, there is no confirmation the slicks relate to the missing plane.

Separately, it has been reported that two passengers who were listed on the plane’s manifest – an Italian and an Austrian – were not actually on the flight but had had their passports stolen in the past two years in Thailand.

“We are doing everything in our power to locate the plane,” Malaysian Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said the focus was on helping the families of those missing. He said that 80% of the families had been contacted.

The plane reportedly went off the radar south of Vietnam.

Its last known location was off the Ca Mau peninsula although the exact position was not clear.

The plane last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Mr Yahya said in a statement.

The Boeing B777-200 aircraft was carrying 227 passengers, including two children, and 12 crew members.

Malaysia’s military said a second wave of helicopters and ships had been despatched after an initial search revealed nothing. The US has agreed to help with its aircraft too, Malaysian Prime Minister Najb Razak said.

Territorial disputes over the South China Sea were set aside temporarily as China dispatched two maritime rescue ships and the Philippines deployed three air force planes and three navy patrol ships.

Singapore is also involved, while Vietnam sent aircraft and ships and asked fishermen in the area to report any suspected sign of the missing plane.

The plane had been flying at an altitude of 35,000ft (10,700m) and the pilots had not reported any problems with the aircraft, Fuad Sharuji, Malaysia Airlines’ vice-president of operations control, said.

Air traffic control lost contact with the Malaysia Airlines plane after leaving Kuala Lumpur


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