SMH — March 19, 2014
A search area the size of Australia is being scoured by 26 countries as authorities try to piece together why missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 changed course.
As an Australian-led search for a missing Malaysia Airlines passenger jet swings into action in the southern Indian Ocean, reports have emerged of a possible sighting of MH370 thousands of kilometres away in the Maldives.
Residents on the island nation, in the Indian Ocean about 700 kilometres south-west of Sri Lanka, have reported seeing a ‘‘low-flying jumbo jet’’ on the morning that the missing plane with 239 people on board vanished from civilian radar and lost contact with ground controllers.
The large plane was reported to be white with red stripes, which is consistent with the Malaysia Airlines fleet, and was said to have made an incredibly loud noise as it flew over the the island of Kuda Huvadhoo at about 6.15am on March 8, according Maldives newspaper Haveeru Daily.
“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before,’’ one unnamed witness told the newspaper.
‘‘We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly… It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.”
Mohamed Zaheem, the island councillor of Kuda Huvadhoo, told the newspaper that other residents had also spoken of the incident.
The residents claimed the plane was flying towards the southern tip of the Maldives, the Addu Atoll.
Investigators have not commented on the reported sighting in the Maldives, which is thousands of kilometres away from where an Australian-led search has begun in a massive stretch of ocean west of Perth.
That search operation, covering an area the size of France, began on Tuesday afternoon when an Australian P-3 Orion surveillance plane set off from RAAF base Pearce, outside Perth.
Aircraft from the US and New Zealand will join the search on Wednesday, and China has expressed interest in helping.
On Wednesday morning, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) said three merchant ships near the search area also had responded to a broadcast issued by AMSA’s rescue co-ordination centre.
The search area is more than 600,000 square kilometres, and the search is likely to take weeks.
John Young, from AMSA’s rescue co-ordination centre, said that search area was the ”best estimate” of where the plane may have came down.
It is a considerably smaller area than the massive arc previously outlined by Malaysian authorities.
But Mr Young said it would still be a massive job, and repeated several times it was only a ”possible search area”, underscoring the uncertainty that still surrounds the whole episode.
”A needle in a haystack remains a good analogy,” he said. ”The sheer size of the search area poses a huge challenge.”
Courtesy Peter Myers
Maldives island residents report sighting of ‘low flying jet’ – Haveeru Online (Maldives newspaper)
by Farah Ahmed and Ahmed Naif — Haveeru Online, The Maldives Mar 18, 2014
Residents of the remote Maldives island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll have reported seeing a “low flying jumbo jet” on the morning of the disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Whilst the disappearance of the Boeing 777 jet, carrying 239 passengers has left the whole world in bewilderment, several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo told Haveeru on Tuesday that they saw a “low flying jumbo jet” at around 6:15am on March 8.
They said that it was a white aircraft, with red stripes across it – which is what the Malaysia Airlines flights typically look like.
Eyewitnesses from the Kuda Huvadhoo concurred that the aeroplane was travelling North to South-East, towards the Southern tip of the Maldives – Addu. They also noted the incredibly loud noise that the flight made when it flew over the island.
“I’ve never seen a jet flying so low over our island before. We’ve seen seaplanes, but I’m sure that this was not one of those. I could even make out the doors on the plane clearly,” said an eyewitness.
“It’s not just me either, several other residents have reported seeing the exact same thing. Some people got out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise too.”
Mohamed Zaheem, the Island Councilor of Kuda Huvadhoo, said that the residents of the island had spoken about the incident.
A local aviation expert told Haveeru that it is “likely” for MH370 to have flown over the Maldives. The possibility of any aircraft flying over the island at the reported time is extremely low, the expert added.
The Malaysia airlines jet disappeared on March 8 with 239 people on board after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Investigators say it was deliberately diverted off course.
Twenty-six countries are now helping to hunt for the plane after satellite and military radar data projected two huge corridors through which it might have flown.
Satellite data suggests that the last “ping” was recieved from the flight somwhere close to the Maldives and the US naval base on Diego Garcia.
But the Maldives is not amongst the countries that Malaysian authorities had sought help from in its search for the missing jet. Malaysia has listed the countries that it had appealed for assistance: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia and France.
Courtesy Peter Myers