A woman stands in front of a placard featuring messages for passengers aboard a missing Malaysia Airlines plane at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia.(AP Photo)
“Alright, roger that”. Those were the last words from the MH370 Malaysia airlines flight early on Saturday before it disappeared into the night with 239 people on board, triggering a massive and multinational but a yet futile search over a vast expanse of sea.
The Malaysian ambassador to China Iskandar Sarudin on Wednesday shared the last radio transmission from the flight with anxious Chinese family members of the passengers at a east Beijing hotel; 154 Chinese passengers were on board the flight that was coming to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur.
According to reports here, the air traffic controller of Malaysia told the Boeing 777 aircraft that “we have handed you over to the jurisdiction area of Ho Chi Minh City.”
A spokesperson for the airlines said the flight did not report any abnormal conditions before it went missing.
Read: Missing Malaysian jet may have strayed toward Andaman Sea; India's coastguard joins search
Radar could not trace the flight but still spotted a flying object that disappeared several minutes later, the spokesman said. There was no communication with air traffic controllers in Vietnam.
“The possibilities include the pilot turning off the signal, the plane being hijacked or the radio system malfunctioning as well as the plane being dismantled,” the spokesperson was quoted by the Shanghai Daily as saying.
As many as 42 ships and several aircraft from a dozen countries – including India – are scouring the vast waters with search area on Wednesday being expanded to the Andaman Seas.
Japan said Wednesday that it would send four military planes to help in the search.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Qin Gang said: “I believe that in the face of such an incident, the international community, whether Malaysia, China or neighbouring countries, have a shared concern.”
“If other countries can, and are willing, to send ships to participate in search work, we welcome it and express our thanks.”
According to the official news agency, Xinhua, eight Chinese vessels were searching for aircraft.
It quoted the China Maritime Search and Rescue Center as saying that the vessels were carrying five helicopters, twelve professional divers and other equipment.
“The search will not only cover an area 90 nautical miles long and 25 nautical miles wide, but also move northwestward, to an area 60 nautical miles long and wide,” the centre said.
But China is not happy with the efforts the Malaysian authorities seem to be making to trace the flight with the foreign ministry saying Wednesday that much of the available information was chaotic.
"So right now there is a lot of information, and it's pretty chaotic, so up to this point we too have had difficulty confirming whether it is accurate or not," Qin said at the regular press briefing.
Qin reiterated that Malaysia should take primary responsibility in handling the aftermath and investigation as the missing flight was operated by Malaysia Airlines.
He appealed to the Malaysian side to take the lead in coordinating international search and rescue efforts.
“We hope to enhance communication with Malaysia and strengthen coordination with search and rescue ships of other countries,” Qin said.
“China and the rest of the international community are very worried about the missing flight, as its whereabouts still remain unknown,” Qin said, urging Malaysia not to miss any clues and to speed up search efforts.
China’s repeated appeals to the Malaysian authorities to step up search efforts is reinforcing the belief among many here that Kuala Lumpur has been unable to adequately and efficiently handle the emergency.
A total of 115 family members of the passengers on missing flight MH370 have arrived in Kuala Lumpur, capital of Malaysia, said Malaysia Airlines Wednesday afternoon.
The company said in a statement that “they are taken care of by 72 different caregivers, and at least one caregiver is assigned to each family together with a Mandarin translator for the families from China.”