Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Kuala Lumpur: The whereabouts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continue to be a mystery, even as an intensified international search and rescue operation was launched on Sunday with the US and China dispatching warships to assist in the mission.
Over 40 ships and 22 planes were roped in to hunt for the missing Boeing 777 jet, which disappeared mysteriously with 239 people on board, en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.
In the latest revelation, Malaysian Air Force chief told a news conference that a recording from the military radar suggested that the missing jet may have made a turn-back towards Kuala Lumpur.
"There is a distinct possibility the airplane did a turn-back, deviating from the course," said General Rodzali Daud.
"One of the possibilities is that it was returning to Kuala Lumpur," he added.
However, Malaysian Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said that had the plane turned back, it would have set off alarm bells.
The hunt for the plane re-started on Sunday morning but there were no signs yet of any wreckage.
The search has been intensified as twenty-two aircraft and forty ships are now involved in the hunt, armed forces chief Gen Zulkefli Zin said.
In a statement, the Malaysian Airlines said that it was “fearing for the worst” and had roped in a disaster recovery management specialist from Atlanta, USA to aid in the SAR mission.
A Malaysian minister hasn`t ruled out the terror link to the plane`s disappearance, saying that the government was probing the possibility of a terror angle, reported the AFP.
The mystery only deepened with the revelation that at least four people were travelling on tickets purchased on fake passports, reports added. Earlier, the people with fake passports were said to be only two in number.
To assist in the investigation over the stolen passports, the US is sending FBI agents to Malaysia.
The issue of South China Sea dispute took a back-seat as nation like China, Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia came together to collaborate for the search mission.
Malaysian Airlines tweeted that an international search and rescue mission had been mobilized with different nations contributing to the hunt for the missing plane.
An international SAR mission was mobilized and efforts are being intensified with team from Singapore, Vietnam & others participating.
— Malaysia Airlines (@MAS) March 8, 2014
China dispatched two maritime rescue ships and the Philippines deployed three air force planes and three navy patrol ships, reported the BBC.
Malaysia and Vietnam have both sent planes and naval vessels while the US has sent a warship named the USS Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, added the report.
Meanwhile on late Saturday, the authorities in Vietnam reported the finding of two oil slicks stretching between six and nine miles, off Vietnam coast, but it has not yet been confirmed if the oil slicks are from the fuel tankers of the missing plane.
The Beijing-bound flight with 227 passengers and 12 crew members is assumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast on Saturday, after it lost communication with the air traffic controllers in Subang, outside Kuala Lumpur.
There were people from 14 nations travelling on board, with the two-third of the passengers being of Chinese nationality.
The plane is said to have lost contact at 1: 30 am, said Malaysian civil aviation chief Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.
Rahman added that there was nothing new to report as nothing had been found. He added that the mission has been expnaded.
In a statement, the Malysian Airlines said that as the location of the aircraft is established, it will set up a command center at Kota Bharu, Malaysia or Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam soon and will make the necessary arrangements.
The airline added that it has deployed a team of 94 caregivers to provide emotional support to the families.
Meanwhile the concerned families of those Chinese nationals who were aboard the ill-fated plane, thronged the Lido hotel which witnessed emotional spectacle of the grieving families.
This could be the deadliest air plane disaster ever in a decade, if the plane with all 239 people is found to have been crashed, as is being assumed.