KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s military radar detected what could have been Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in an area in the northern Malacca Strait, hundreds of kilometres from the spot where the plane dropped off air traffic screens, the air force chief said today (March 12).
Tan Sri General Rodzali Daud told a news conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport that the tracking was at 2.15am local time on Saturday, about 45 minutes after the plane with 239 people on board vanished from air traffic control screens midway between Malaysia’s east coast and Vietnam.
He said the radar tracking was at a point 320 kilometres northwest of Penang island on Malaysia’s west coast.
Gen Rodzali stressed that the radar data needed to be corroborated with other bodies, including the US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) FAA and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
Amid mounting international criticism, the Malaysian authorities today said they are bringing in more experts to help in the search and rescue operations.
“We are bringing in experts to analyse data gathered by the military and civilian investigators from the west and the east, including the US NTSB,” said Acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
He said the search for the missing flight is now focused in the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea, covering 27,000 square nautical miles.
39 aircraft and 42 ships from 12 countries are scouring these areas in the search, which is in its fifth day.
Mr Hishammuddin also stressed that the government has been consistent in what they have been saying.
He said the prime minister had said that the search area will be expanded and that is what they are doing now.
“We will not spare any effort to find the missing plane,” he said, adding that twelve countries have now joined the search, with India, Japan and Brunei being the latest to join the team.
Mr Hishammuddin said no new leads have turned up in the search for the missing aircraft with 239 people on board, and warned that the race to find out what happened to the plane could be a protracted affair.
“It’s going to be long, drawn out,” Mr Hishamuddin told The Wall Street Journal in brief remarks.
He also said that the main focus is to find the aircraft and the black box which can help in answering lots of questions.
Denying speculation that Malaysia might be hiding some information due to the lack of clarity and coordination in the search and rescue effort, the minister said coordinating such a large team is not an easy task.
“This is unprecedented, what we are going through, it is not something easy to coordinate so many countries and so many vessels. This search also includes a vast area,” Mr Hishammuddin said.
He said the search and rescue team will never give up hope, adding “we owe this to the families”.
With the continuous criticism, especially coming from China, Hishammuddin said it was understandable as there are many Chinese nationals onboard flight MH370.
“China feels aggrieved because so many of their nationals are involved. It is also natural, as time passes, it will involve a lot of emotion and frustration. But it will not distract from our main focus of finding the missing plane,” he said.