One of several suspicious passengers bound for Copenhagen
Officials investigating the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines’ Flight MH370, with 239 people on board, suspect it may have broken up in mid-flight, according to a senior source quoted by Reuters news agency.
An international search for oil slicks and wreckage from the plane, which was flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, is being stretched to a wider area. Oil has been reported on the sea south of Vietnam and east of Malaysia, but no confirmed trace of the plane has been found.
The head of Malaysia’s air force said the Beijing-bound airliner may have begun to turn back from its scheduled route before it vanished from radar screens.
“The fact that we are unable to find any debris so far appears to indicate that the aircraft is likely to have disintegrated at around 35,000 feet,” an anonymous source working on the investigation in Malaysia told Reuters.
If the plane had plunged intact, breaking up only on impact with the water, search teams would have found a concentration of debris, the source said, adding that there was no evidence yet of a bomb and that the aircraft could have disintegrated due to mechanical reasons.
Two passengers on the flight are known to have used stolen passports, one of whose final destination was Copenhagen, the other Frankfurt. Both were of Asian appearance, leading to criticism of border officials who let them through. Other “suspect passports” are also being investigated.
The 11-year-old Boeing 777-200ER, powered by Rolls-Royce Trent engines, took off from Kuala Lumpur at 12:40 am local time on Saturday, with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board. It last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Reuters reports. Flight tracker Flightaware showed it flew northeast after takeoff, climbed to 35,000ft and was still climbing when it vanished. There were no reports of bad weather.
Fourteen nationalities were among the passengers, including 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, seven Indonesians, six Australians, five Indians, four French and three Americans.