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In a dramatic development last night, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak revealed search and rescue teams were trying to trace the jet across two possible "corridors" - one along the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan through to northern Thailand, and a southern corridor from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
He said communication devices had been disabled in "a deliberate act by someone on that plane", leading to increased speculation that the flight was hijacked.
Najib said all crew and passengers were under investigation, and there were reports last night that police were searching the home of the captain, 53-year-old Zaharie Ahmad Shah.
"We hope this new information brings us one step closer to finding the plane," Najib said.
The news came after a week of frustration at the failure to find any trace of the aircraft, which disappeared eight days ago.
Last night's development brought a glimmer of hope to the Weeks family, who have been hanging on every development during a torturous week.
Paul's sister Sara Weeks said the family watched the Prime Minister's press conference live at their Christchurch home.
"I would be lying to say that there's no hope and think, well it's a hijacking, so potentially there could be hope that those people could still be alive. But I think we felt even if it had crashed, potentially there are survivors."
Sara Weeks said that if the plane had been hijacked, it "doesn't necessarily mean anything good".
Paul Weeks' wife, Danica, who lives in Perth, was doing "as well as can be expected", a friend said last night. Danica Weeks had dropped her husband at the airport as he set off to start a new job in Mongolia.
Paul Weeks and Aucklander Ximin Wang, were among the 239 passengers and crew aboard the flight.
Malaysia Airlines officials have not been in touch with the Weeks despite Najib claiming at the press conference that the company had contacted families.
"It's very frustrating not having that communication because it just seems that we're not being told at all and it's not just us, it's everyone who had family members on that flight," Sara said.
"This is stuff that as families we needed to know a long time about. It's very hard to deal with because you just want to know things, you just want to rule things out and we're not getting that."
Weeks said that her family, including her mother, who lives in Perth a few doors away from her son, were gathering together for her 40th birthday today but it "wouldn't be the happiest time".
"It's just an awful thing to have to go through and the lack of knowledge has been terrible.
"It's very difficult for everyone, for us as a family, and all the family members of everyone on that plane must all be feeling the same way - just quite helpless because you don't know anything."
Wang's family in Auckland could not be reached for comment.
Last night, a Malaysian official told the Herald on Sunday they were working on the theory crew and passengers could still be alive.
"We are not ruling out the possibility that the plane crash-landed on land, or people were removed using life rafts," the official said, on the condition of anonymity.
"The search is over land just as much as it is over sea."
The last time a satellite signal was received from the plane was 8.11am eight days ago.
"That means it is very possible the people could be on an island either in the Andaman [Sea] or the Indian Ocean."
- Herald on Sunday