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Vietnam Fails to Find Debris After China Satellite Images

By Bloomberg News
March 13, 2014 6:22 PM EDT 20 Comments
Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand over the location where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner, on March 13, 2014.
Source: AP Photo
Vietnamese Air Force Col. Pham Minh Tuan uses binoculars on board a flying aircraft during a mission to search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the Gulf of Thailand over the location where Chinese satellite images showed possible debris from the missing Malaysian jetliner, on March 13, 2014.

(Corrects seventh paragraph to remove reference to Rolls Royce engines being source of signals sent to ground, as previously reported by Wall Street Journal. For more on Malaysian Air Flight 370, see EXT3.)

Vietnam failed to find debris in an area where Chinese satellite images showed three floating objects, while a report said a missing Malaysian airliner may have been airborne for several hours after it vanished.

A Vietnamese plane sent this morning to search the area where the Chinese satellite spotted floating objects didn’t find anything, said Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam. Now U.S. investigators suspect the Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) jet stayed in the air about four hours past the time it reached its last confirmed location, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the details.

With the search on its sixth day, authorities still have produced no evidence to show what happened to Flight 370 en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur on March 8. Malaysia’s military is looking into an unexplained radar blip that’s added to the mystery.

Radar picked up the unknown signal in the area of the Malacca Strait about 2:15 a.m. local time on March 8, or 45 minutes after contact was lost with the jet whose route to Beijing went over the Gulf of Thailand on the other side of the country.

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A Chinese satellite hunting for the missing plane had reported three floating objects at sea along its intended route. Images showed the pieces were as large as 24 meters (79 feet) by 22 meters, China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said on its website.

Both sides of Peninsular Malaysia are being scoured by ships, planes and helicopters as multiple countries follow leads -- such as an e-mail from an oil-rig worker, the sighting of what was thought to be a life raft -- that proved to be dead ends.

The U.S. investigators believe the plane flew on for several hours, the Journal reported.

U.S. counterterrorism officials are investigating whether the jetliner’s transponders were turned off to avoid radar detection, before the plane was diverted by a pilot or someone else on board, the Journal said, citing one person.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chong Pooi Koon in Kuala Lumpur at pchong17@bloomberg.net; Ranjeetha Pakiam in Kuala Lumpur at rpakiam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net Anand Krishnamoorthy, Frank Longid

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