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Search for MH370 turns towards Maldive Islands

March 20, 2014 Aviation, Headline News No Comments Email Email

egtmedia59The focus in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370  switched yesterday to the remote Maldives island of Kuda Huvadhoo in Dhaal Atoll.

Residents in the far-flung islet reported seeing a “low flying jumbo jet” pass overhead on the morning the MAS jet disappeared.

The report came from Haveeru, an online newspaper which serves the Indian Ocean island nation. The Maldives consists of a double chain of 26 atolls, oriented north-south, lying between Minicoy Island (the southernmost part of Lakshadweep, India) and the Chagos Archipelago.250x250

Malaysia’s Transport Minister, Hishamuddin Hussein, later dismissed the Maldives sightings, saying that “no indication of Flight MH370 has been observed on any military radars in the country” [Maldives] and adding that “the data of radars at Maldives airports have also been analysed and shows no indication of the said flight”.

That may not be enough to satisfy Chinese relatives of those missing aboard the flight, who have accused Malaysia of hiding the truth over the plane’s disappearance. They staged an emotional demonstration at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday to make that point.

The Maldives online newspaper had quoted several residents of Kuda Huvadhoo saying they saw a plane pass overhead about 6:15am on 8 March. Such a large aircraft is very unusual in the area.

Residents described the aircraft as white with red stripes across it – a reasonable description of the Malaysia Airlines livery.

Eyewitnesses from Kuda Huvadhoo mentioned the incredibly loud noise that the flight made as it passed over their island. They told Haveeru the aircraft was travelling north to southeast, towards the southern tip of the Maldives.

“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,” an eyewitness told Haveeru.

The publication quoted Mohamed Zaheem, the Island Councilor of Kuda Huvadhoo, saying residents of the island had spoken to him about the incident.

The Malaysia airlines jet disappeared with 239 people aboard after taking off from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing. Investigators say it was deliberately diverted from its course by someone on board.

In another development, an investigative team has been going through the residence of the flight’s pilot, Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah. The team reportedly found a flight simulator program with five runways entered into it. They also found that the pilot had deleted some flight simulator logs.

The Malay-language newspaper Berita Harian quoted unnamed sources close to the investigation as saying that the airport runways found in the program were Male International Airport in the Maldives, Diego Garcia (an island in the Indian Ocean hosting a US naval base) and three runways in India and Sri Lanka.

“We are not discounting the possibility that the plane landed on a runway that might not be heavily monitored, in addition to the theories that the plane landed on sea, in the hills, or in an open space,” the Malay Mail Online quoted the source as saying.

Meanwhile, in three other developments:

  • Tomnod, a crowdsourcing platform powered by satellite operator DigitalGlobe, is uncovering a few anomalies. Tomnod (the word means “Big Eye” in Mongolian) joined the search for the missing flight last week. The platform uses millions of ordinary internet users to scan satellite imagery. At last report, the website had released a picture of what just might be debris from an aircraft, floating in the Malacca Strait. Further investigations will follow.
  • Thailand’s military admitted that its radar detected a plane that may have been MH370 just minutes after the plane’s communications went down. It didn’t share that  information with Malaysia earlier because it wasn’t specifically asked for it.
  • And embattled Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim admitted that Malaysia Airlines MH370 Captain Zaharie Ahmad Shah is related to his son-in-law, according to Britain’s Daily Mail.

Written by : Peter Needham

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