A family member of a passenger onboard the missing Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH370 screams as she is brought into a room
outside the media conference area at a hotel near Kuala
Lumpur Airport. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Chinese relatives' anger over sparse information on the
fate of their loved ones on board a missing Malaysian airliner
sparked chaotic scenes at the headquarters of a search
operation that has so far turned up few clues.
Malaysia's transport minister ordered an inquiry after
security guards carried out the distraught mother of a
passenger on Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 from a briefing
room where she had protested about a lack of transparency, 12
days after the plane vanished.
"They are just saying wait for information. Wait for
information. We don't know how long we have to wait," cried
the woman before being whisked away from a massive media
Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he regretted the anguish.
"Malaysia is doing everything in its power to find MH370 and
hopefully bring some degree of closure for those whose family
members are missing," he said in a statement.
Prospects that a 26-nation operation would lead to quick
results appeared to be dwindling, however, as investigators
confirmed they were focusing on the remote southern Indian
Ocean after failing to find any traces of the jet further
"Our top priority is being given to that area," Hishammuddin
told the news conference, confirming an earlier Reuters
No wreckage has been found from Flight MH370, which vanished
from air traffic control screens off Malaysia's east coast at
1:21am local time on March 8, less than an hour after taking
off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing.
An unprecedented search for the Boeing 777-200ER is under way
in two vast search corridors: one arcing north overland from
Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other curving south across
the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia's Sumatra island to
west of Australia.
"The working assumption is that it went south, and
furthermore that it went to the southern end of that
corridor," said a source close to the investigation.
The view is based on the lack of any evidence from countries
along the northern corridor that the plane entered their
airspace, and the failure to find any trace of wreckage in
searches in the upper part of the southern corridor.
Some sources involved in the investigation have voiced fears
it could stall due to the reluctance of countries in the
region to share militarily sensitive radar data that might
shed new light on the direction the jet took.
Two people familiar with the investigation said the search
had been hampered in some cases by delays over the paperwork
needed to allow foreign maritime surveillance aircraft into
territorial waters without a formal diplomatic request.
"These are basically spy planes; that's what they were
designed for," said one source close to the investigation,
explaining the hesitance of some nations to give blanket
permission for other countries to scour their waters.
Hishammuddin confirmed that some assets that could be
involved in the search were waiting for diplomatic clearance.
"The search for MH370 involves diplomatic, technical and
logistical challenges," he told the news conference, held in
a Kuala Lumpur airport hotel that has served as a temporary
crisis coordination centre and a base for dozens of news
FBI ANALYSES DATA
Malaysian and U.S. officials believe the aircraft was
deliberately diverted perhaps thousands of miles off course,
but an exhaustive background search of the passengers and
crew aboard has not yielded anything that might explain why.
If it did indeed end up in the southern Indian Ocean, one of
the remotest places on Earth and also one of the deepest
seas, it increases the chance it may never be found - and
investigators may never know for sure what happened on board.
Officials believe that someone with detailed knowledge of
both the Boeing 777 and commercial aviation navigation
switched off two vital datalinks: the ACARS system, which
relays maintenance data back to the ground, and the
transponder, which enables the plane to be seen by civilian
Police have searched the homes of pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah,
53, and co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid, 27. Among the items taken
were a flight simulator Zaharie had built in his home.
Malaysia's police chief, Khalid Abu Bakar, said an
examination of the flight simulator showed its data log had
been cleared on Feb. 3. "The experts are looking at what are
the logs that have been cleared," he told the news
Malaysian authorities have given the FBI access to electronic
data generated by both pilots, including data from a hard
drive attached to the captain's flight simulator and from
electronic media used by the co-pilot, a U.S. law enforcement
official told Reuters.
The official said he could not confirm that some data had
been wiped from the simulator and stressed that there was no
guarantee the FBI analysis would turn up any fresh clues.
Investigators piecing together patchy data from military
radar and satellites believe that minutes later the plane
turned sharply west, re-crossing the Malay Peninsula and
following an established commercial route towards India.
After that, ephemeral pings picked up by one commercial
satellite suggest the aircraft flew on for at least six
Australia is leading the search of the southern part of the
southern corridor, with assistance from the U.S. Navy.
It has shrunk its search field based on satellite tracking
data and analysis of weather and currents, but it still
covers an area of 600,000 sq km (230,000 sq miles), roughly
the size of Spain and Portugal.