The search area for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 had been expanded to 2.24 million square nautical miles (about 7.68 million square km), Malaysia’s acting transport minister said Tuesday.
Hishammuddin Hussein, also Malaysia’s defence minister, told a press conference search areas in both the northern and southern corridors were each divided into seven quadrants respectively, with each quadrant covering an area of 160,000 square nautical miles (548,784 square km).
The Boeing 777-200 went missing in the early hours of March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. There were 239 people on board, including 154 Chinese.
Based on latest information, the search areas – almost as large as Australia – encompass a northern corridor stretching approximately from the border of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to northern Thailand, and a southern one from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean.
“This is an enormous search area. And it is something that Malaysia cannot possibly search on its own. I am therefore very pleased that so many countries have come forward to offer assistance and support to the search and rescue operation,” the minister said.
He said Malaysia deployed two more ships, with a helicopter that can operate from either ship, making the total number of ships searching in the southern corridor to four.
Malaysia also deployed two C-130 aircraft to the Indonesian sector of the southern search corridor, he said.
As many as 26 countries have been involved in the search across Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean.
China’s Ministry of Transportation on Tuesday ordered all Chinese vessels in the Gulf of Thailand to transfer their search to the waters southeast of the Bay of Bengal and near the Sunda Strait.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian minister refused to reveal more details of the ongoing investigation into the passengers and crew, adding “the search for MH370 is bigger than politics.”
Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Huang Huikang said Tuesday no passenger from the Chinese mainland aboard the missing passenger plane had been involved in a hijack or terror attack.
A New York Times report Monday claimed the change of course that diverted the missing Malaysian Airlines plane off its flight path was programmed into the aircraft’s computer navigation system, probably by someone in the cockpit.
This added to speculation the captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah– a member of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s party, may have been driven by political motives to sabotage the plane.ex
A member of the Royal Malaysian Police has confirmed that a flight simulator was recovered from the captain’s home.
The background of Fariq Ab Hamid, the 27-year-old co-pilot, who allowed two female passengers to ride in the cockpit during a flight two years ago, has prompted scrutiny of the professionalism of top-level staff.
However, reports said the 53-year-old captain has more than 18,000 hours of flying experience and is keen on cooking and had great enthusiasm for flying while family and friends of the co-pilot said the young man was religious and serious about his career.