KUALA LUMPUR- Malaysia said Monday it was sending ships to investigate a sighting of what could be a life raft, as an international rescue force searched for traces of an aircraft carrying 239 people to China which vanished two days ago.
China, which had 153 of its nationals on board, said Malaysia needed to “step up” its efforts after authorities admitted they were mystified by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370.
Relatives’ anguish and frustration was deepened when initial reports of debris off southern Vietnam were ruled out, before an aircraft spotted another object.
“There was a report today that we just received that an aircraft had seen something like an inverted life raft… so we are contacting our counterparts, we are sending ships there to verify the object,” said Malaysia’s head of civil aviation, Azharuddin Abdul Rahman.
Malaysia has launched a terror probe after at least two of the passengers on board the plane were found to have travelled on stolen passports. The country’s police chief said Monday one of them had been identified, but gave no further details.
Azharuddin had few answers to the burning questions surrounding the plane’s fate. Asked whether it was possible the plane had been hijacked or disintegrated mid-air, he said nothing could be ruled out.
“We are looking at every angle. We are looking at every aspect of what could have happened,” he said.
“This unprecedented missing aircraft mystery — it is mystifying and we are increasing our efforts to do what we have to do.”
Beijing’s state media lashed out at Malaysia and MAS over their handling of the crisis that began early Saturday when the Boeing 777 slipped off radar screens, an hour after leaving Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing..
“The Malaysian side cannot shirk its responsibilities,” the Global Times newspaper, which is close to the ruling Communist Party, wrote in a scathing editorial. “The initial response from Malaysia was not swift enough.”