Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik applies the final
touches to a sand sculpture wishing for the wellbeing of
the flight MH370 passengers, on a beach in Puri, in the
eastern Indian state of Odisha. REUTERS/Stringer
Officials investigating the disappearance of a Malaysia
Airlines jetliner with 239 people on board suspect it may have
disintegrated in mid-flight, a senior source says, as Vietnam
reported a possible sighting of wreckage from the plane.
International police agency Interpol confirmed that at least
two passports recorded in its database as lost or stolen were
used by passengers on the flight, raising suspicions of foul
An Interpol spokeswoman said a check of all documents used to
board the plane had revealed more "suspect passports" that
were being further investigated. She was unable to say how
many, or from which country or countries.
Nearly 48 hours after the last contact with Flight MH370,
mystery still surrounded its fate. Malaysia's air force chief
said the Beijing-bound airliner may have turned back from its
scheduled route before it vanished from radar screens.
"The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far
appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have
disintegrated at around 35,000 feet," a source involved in
the investigations in Malaysia told Reuters.
If the plane had plunged intact from close to its cruising
altitude, breaking up only on impact with the water, search
teams would have expected to find a fairly concentrated
pattern of debris, said the source, speaking on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the
Asked about the possibility of an explosion, such as a bomb,
the source said there was no evidence yet of foul play and
that the aircraft could have broken up due to mechanical
Dozens of military and civilian vessels have been
criss-crossing waters beneath the aircraft's flight path, but
have found no confirmed trace of the lost plane, although oil
slicks have been reported in the sea south of Vietnam and
east of Malaysia.
Late last night, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said
on its website that a Vietnamese navy plane had spotted an
object in the sea suspected of being part of the plane, but
that it was too dark to be certain. Search planes were set to
return to investigate the suspected debris at daybreak.
"The outcome so far is there is no sign of the aircraft,"
Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said.
"On the possibility of hijack, we are not ruling out any
possibility," he told reporters.
The Malaysian authorities said they were widening the search
to cover vast swathes of sea around Malaysia and off Vietnam,
and were investigating at least two passengers who were using
false identity documents.
The passenger manifest issued by the airline included the
names of two Europeans - Austrian Christian Kozel and Italian
Luigi Maraldi - who, according to their foreign ministries,
were not on the plane. Both had apparently had their
passports stolen in Thailand during the past two years.
The BBC reported that the men falsely using their passports
had purchased tickets together and were due to fly on to
Europe from Beijing, meaning they did not have to apply for a
Chinese visa and undergo further checks.
An employee at a travel agency in Pattaya, in Thailand, told
Reuters the two had purchased the tickets there.
Interpol maintains a vast database of more than 40 million
lost and stolen travel documents, and has long urged member
countries to make greater use of it to stop people crossing
borders on false papers.
The global police organisation confirmed that Kozel's and
Maraldi's passports had both been added to the database after
their theft in 2012 and 2013 respectively. But it said no
country had consulted the database to check either of them
since the time they were stolen.
"Whilst it is too soon to speculate about any connection
between these stolen passports and the missing plane, it is
clearly of great concern that any passenger was able to board
an international flight using a stolen passport listed in
Interpol's databases," Interpol Secretary General Ronald
Noble said in a statement.
In a sign that Malaysia's airport controls may have been
breached, Prime Minister Najib Razak said security procedures
were being reviewed.
Malaysian Transport Minister Hishamuddin Hussein said
authorities were also checking the identities of two other
passengers. He said help was also being sought from the U.S.
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). However, an attack was
only one of the possibilities being investigated.
"We are looking at all possibilities," he said. "We cannot
jump the gun. Our focus now is to find the plane."
The 11-year-old Boeing 777-200ER, powered by Rolls-Royce
Trent engines, took off at 12:40 a.m. on Saturday(1640 GMT
Friday) from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, with 227
passengers and 12 crew on board.
It last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical
miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu.
Flight tracking website flightaware.com showed it flew
northeast after takeoff, climbed to 35,000 ft (10,670 metres)
and was still climbing when it vanished from tracking
There were no reports of bad weather.
"What we have done is actually look into the recording on the
radar that we have and we realised there is a possibility the
aircraft did make a turnback," Rodzali Daud, the Royal
Malaysian Air Force chief, told reporters at a news
The search was being extended to the west coast of the Malay
peninsula, in addition to a broad expanse of the sea between
Malaysia and Vietnam, he said.
Vietnamese naval boats sent from the holiday island of Phu
Quoc patrolled stretches of the Gulf of Thailand, scouring
the area where an oil slick was spotted by patrol jets just
before nightfall on Saturday.
Besides the Vietnamese vessels, Malaysia and neighbouring
countries have deployed 34 aircraft and 40 ships in the
search. China and the United States have sent ships to help,
and Washington has also deployed a maritime surveillance
U.S. officials from Boeing, the National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB) and the Federal Aviation Administration
were on the way to Asia to help in investigations, NTSB said
in a statement. Boeing said it was monitoring the situation
but had no further comment.
The airline has said 14 nationalities were among the
passengers, including at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians,
seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French
and three Americans.