December 18, 2014
Rescuers scour sea for Malaysian jet lost in 'unprecedented mystery'
The disappearance of a Malaysian jetliner is an "unprecedented aviation mystery", a senior official said today, with a massive air and sea search now in its third day failing to find any confirmed trace of the plane or the 239 people aboard.
The head of Malaysia's Civil Aviation Authority, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman, said a hijacking attempt could not be ruled out as investigators explore all theories for the loss of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 en route to Beijing.
"Unfortunately we have not found anything that appears to be objects from the aircraft, let alone the aircraft," he told a news conference.
"As far as we are concerned, we have to find the aircraft, we have to find a piece of the aircraft if possible."
As dozens of ships and aircraft from seven countries scour the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam, questions mounted over possible security lapses and whether a bomb or hijacking attempt could have brought down the Boeing 777-200ER airliner.
Hopes for a breakthrough rose briefly when Vietnam scrambled helicopters to investigate a floating yellow object it was thought could have been a life raft. But the country's Civil Aviation Authority said on its website that the object turned out to be a "moss-covered cap of a cable reel".
Interpol confirmed on Sunday at least two passengers used stolen passports and said it was checking whether others aboard had used false identity documents.
Flight MH370 disappeared from radar screens in the early hours of Saturday, about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur, after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 ft.
Underlining the lack of hard information about the plane's fate, a US Navy P-3 aircraft capable of covering 1,500 sq miles every hour was sweeping the northern part of the Strait of Malacca, on the other side of the Malaysian peninsula from where the last contact with MH370 was made.
"Our aircraft are able to clearly detect small debris in the water, but so far it has all been trash or wood," said U.S. 7th Fleet spokesman Commander William Marks in an emailed statement.
Shares in Malaysia Airlines fell as much as 18 percent to a record low this morning and were down 4 percent near the close.