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Australia: Area of new sighting covered in search
Published:  Mar 22, 2014 8:00 AM
Updated: 8:51 PM

MH370 Exactly two Saturdays ago at 2.41am Malaysia Airlines (MAS) MH370 disappeared off the radar while over the Gulf of Thailand en route to Beijing, carrying 239 passengers and crew.

After a series of false leads the plane's whereabouts continue to baffle the international search effort that has since kicked in.

All eyes are now on the most promising lead to date, the sighting of several objects, one 24m long in the Indian Ocean 2,500km southwest of Perth.

Among others, US, Australia and New Zealand are engaged in establishing in that the objects belong to MH370.

Below are updates and the latest coverage from various sources and news agencies:

10.30pm: According to Bernama , the Bangi-Putrajaya Hotel in Bangi, where about 20 Chinese family members of passengers in the missing MH370 are being accommodated, has been declared off-limits to journalists.

Signboards with the follow words ‘No Media after this Path’ are placed at the main entrance, as well as to the hotel lift, washroom and several locations at the hotel.

Several security guards from the hotel and MAS are seen patrolling the hotel premises and compound.

A journalist from a Malaysian Chinese daily who declined to be identified said the situation at the hotel currently was unlike at The Everly Hotel in Putrajaya and the Cyberview Resort & Spa Hotel in Cyberjaya where the family members were previously accommodated.

"At the two earlier hotels, the media were allowed in. Only that they were not allowed to approach the family members.”

10.10pm : Despite the MH370 crisis, Sydney Morning Herald quotes a travel retailer spokesperson and an unnamed MAS official that that MAS ticket sales remain steady.


“People just want to know what happened to the aircraft, and they're waiting for answers before they make any judgements about the airline,” Flight Centre spokesperson Haydn Long was quoted as saying.


Meanwhile, the report says MAS has handled the issue well so far, but it will become increasingly difficult to maintain its reputation as the crisis drags on.


Crisis communications expert Hamish McLean reportedly told the daily that that the airline’s main threats are speculation and fear-mongering, and MAS needs to counter it with "regular and consolidated" information.


“There's frustration as people look for answers, so the airline will require tremendous leadership and strength if it hopes to keep its good reputation afloat,” he said.


Read more here .

9.45pm: The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (Amsa) says that the location where the Chinese satellite sighted floating objects have already been covered in today's air search, but turned up nothing.

"Amsa will take this information into account in tomorrow's search plans."

A map released by Amsa shows that the location of the satellite sighting captured on March 18 is right at the southwestern edge of today's search area.

Amsa adds that six aircraft were involved in today's search, while Australian Navy vessel HMAS Success joins two merchant vessels in the search area.

The air search revealed a number of small objects, including a wooden pallet and clumps of seaweed.

"The search will resume tomorrow and further attempts will be made to establish whether the objects sighted are related to MH370."

Read Amsa's latest statement .

9.17pm: Reuters reports that in response to a formal diplomatic

request from Malaysia, China, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Laos,

Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan has all said, based on preliminary

analysis, that there have been no sightings of the aircraft on

their radar.

Aircraft and ships have renewed the search in the Andaman

Sea between India and Thailand, going over areas in the northern

corridor that have already been exhaustively swept.

Malaysia has said the search will continue in both southern and northen corridors until confirmed debris is found.

8.37pm: Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tweets: For those who so easily find fault with Malaysia: How many can say they are able to coordinate joint & common effort of 26 nations? China, USA, Japan and Asean.

8.33pm: The families of Chinese passengers, who are now in Malaysia, have been informed of the discovery of images of objects detected by a Chinese satellite in the southern corridor, reports Bernama .

"I am meeting with the families informally to inform them of the new finding which I received from the Chinese embassy here," special envoy to China, Ong Ka Ting, tells the national new agency.

Asked about the reaction of the families, he was quoted as saying although sad, they wanted confirmation about the object before making a decision on the next course of action.

6.15pm: At the daily briefing today, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin brushes off concerns that MH370's cargo of highly flammable lithium-ion batteries may have caused the lost of the plane.
"Preliminary investigation of the cargo manifest has not shown any link to anything that might have contributed to MH370’s disappearance," he said.
Hishammuddin said search in the northern and southern corridors have not yielded results. He added tropical cyclone Gillian was developing in the Indian Ocean and may hamper search efforts.
Also present at the press conference was Department of Civil Aviation director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman who said the transcript purportedly to be MH370's last 54 minutes of communication with tower controllers was "inaccurate".
However, he refused to say outright if the transcript, reported by UK-based Daily Telegraph , was false.

6pm: Chinese satellites have spotted an object floating in the southern search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane that could be debris and has sent ships to investigate, acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein tells reporters.

"Chinese ships have been dispatched to the area. Beijing is expected to make an announcement in a few hours," he adds.

Read the full story here .

5.32pm: The first Chinese plane heading to Australia to join the hunt for the missing jet landed at the wrong airport, Reuters reports.

The Chinese IL-76 military aircraft made an unexpected stop at Perth International Airport before heading to its correct destination at RAAF Base Pearce outside Perth.

"They landed at Perth and then they landed here," RAAF Corporal Janine Fabre told the news agency. "We don't know why."

5.27pm: Information Department officer Jagjit Singh says the daily press conferences at 5.30pm will be scrapped.

"Unless there are any major developments, there will be no scheduled press conferences.

"We will send a written statement instead," he adds.

Earlier, the Transport Ministry says the media centre will be moved to Putra World Trade Centre, KL effective tomorrow.

5.10pm: More than two weeks after the local and international press operated out of Sama-Sama Hotel, Sepang, some 60km south of Kuala Lumpur, the media centre will now move to a location closer to the capital city.

In a statement today, the Transport Ministry says the media centre will be moved to Putra World Trade Centre, KL effective tomorrow.

"This relocation is due to Sama-Sama Hotel's commitment towards guests coming for the Formula 1 Grand Prix this week.

"PWTC was selected for the relocation because of its facilities and the availability of hotel rooms nearby that could meet the needs of the media."

4.56pm: India has formally told Malaysian investigators it has found no evidence that a missing Malaysia Airlines jet flew through its airspace, Reuters reports.

Any radar data from India could have proved crucial in identifying whether the aircraft went north or south from its last known position in the Andaman waters.

Sources familiar with the situation in both countries told the news agency that India had formally informed Malaysia that it had checked for any sign of the jet having touched its airspace and found nothing of significance.

2.55pm: Acting Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says there is still no sign of MH370, despite an Australian-led effort to track down large pieces of suspected debris spotted via satellite imagery.

"I am still quite concerned that it has been two days, and yet the searchers have not come up with the debris from the satellite images," he says when met by journalists at Sama-Sama Hotel, near Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Nevertheless, he says there will be no giving up on the search and feels encouraged by the assistance from many foreign nations.

"I am not going to give up... My biggest concern is that we are not able to identify the debris, having to go back to the two corridors," he adds.

2.10pm: Royal Australian Air Force's (RAAF) group captain says there is "reasonable chance" that the search operation will find something in the area of suspected debris, reports Sydney Morning Herald .

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss says the search operation in the Indian Ocean has so far covered half a million square kilometres.

‘‘This search is an intensive operation... While these aircraft are equipped with very advanced technology, much of this search is actually visual," he is quoted as saying.

There are 15 sorties from the RAAF base north of Perth where Truss is, adds the report.

1pm: MAS in a statement says the lithium-ion batteries that were part of the flight's cargo complied with standards.

"The lithium-ion batteries carried onboard MH370 on March 8 were in compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) requirements where it is classified as Non Dangerous Goods," it said.

Questions have surrounded the batteries as a possible source of any mishap MH370 may have faced.

11.30am: New Zealand says it will assist Malaysia in any way it could to locate the missing MH370, says its Maori Affairs minister Pita Sharples in a Bernama report.


"When the earthquake hit Christchurch, Malaysia was among the first to offer help to us, which the government and people of New Zealand greatly appreciate," he says in his address at a Sarawak-New Zealand social function at a leading hotel in Kuching last night.

9.30am: Australia resumes its third day seaching the Indian Ocean southwest of Perth  for the large objects spotted by   satellite.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority announced in a statement this morning that it is adding two ultra long range commercial jets for the hunt on top of existing P3 Orions, bringing the total aircraft to six.

The ultra long range commercial jet has enough fuel to comb the area for five hours compared to the P3 Orion's two hours.

8.47am: UK's The Telegraph has published the full transcript of the cockpit communication, thus far withheld from the public.


While analysts say the messages appeared “perfectly routine” two features are said to stand out as "potentially odd".


One is the repeat six minutes later of a 1.07am message that the plane was flying at 35,000ft.


1.07am is when the plane’s Acars signalling device sent its last message before being disabled some time over the next 30 minutes, said the UK daily.


The second is the loss of communication at the handover point of Kuala Lumpur air traffic controllers to their Ho Chi Minh City counterparts.


This particularly raises suspicions of foul play in the plane's disappearance.


The daily quoted former British Airways pilot Stephen Buzdygan who had flown 777s saying, “If I was going to steal the aeroplane, that would be the point I would do it.


“There might be a bit of dead space between the air traffic controllers … It was the only time during the flight they would maybe not have been able to be seen from the ground.”

The Malaysian government, however, remains tightlipped over the cockpit communication, only saying at yesterday's press conference that it has been looked into.


The Telegraph says it had "repeatedly asked" MAS, Malaysia’s Civil Aviation Authority and the office of Prime Minister Najib Razak to confirm their transcript, only to receive the response that the data will  not be released.

5.48am: Reuters this morning reports that the Pentagon said on Friday it was considering a request from Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein to provide undersea surveillance equipment to help in the search for the missing Malaysia Air Flight 370.  


The Malaysian defence chief made the request in a telephone call to defense secretary Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon said in a statement.  


Hagel said he would "assess the availability and utility of military undersea technology for such a task and provide him an update in the very near future," the statement said.